Apple’s Future of the Mac and its Pricing

I’m a little bit worried. Apple’s keynote yesterday was great! But it was basically about every product but the Mac. Even the release date of El Capitan was only shown as an easter egg during a demo of iOS. I start to get drawn to the group of people that think the Mac has no bright future at all. Apple often said that the future of PCs is the iPad. I can see this in many scenarios and for lots of use cases this might be the right way to go. But as a developer I have some problems with this direction. They can’t just cut off the Mac and make the iPad Pro a device to develop software on. At least not with iOS. iOS is not suited well enough for lots of things. Sure, you can do almost anything with it, but when it gets a little bit more in the professional and flexible direction, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to reach your goal. I can’t see myself writing software on an iPad. Webcrap might be doable, but imagine Xcode on an iPad? I might be surprised how well this works with iOS on an iPad Pro soon… But iOS has to move a lot more in the direction of OS X and I don’t see that.

But what worries me a lot more than the fact that there was not a single second about the Mac in a keynote is the fact that Macs got way more expensive over the years. People always complained and told me that Macs are too expensive. „You get what you pay for“, I thought and tried to convince them that an equally equipped Windose brick would cost just as much. And it really was like that! But I don’t know if it is still true. Apple’s pricing of their products these days is horrible I think.

Let’s go back 5 years: I bought a 27” iMac back then. It wasn’t the entry level machine, but it was also not maxed out. It was a really good computer! The best device I ever had actually. And it still runs just great today! It gets a little slow here and there and sometimes I recognize that it is far from a retina display. But all in all I’m still pretty pleased with it’s performance. I paid around 2000€ for it.

Now let’s have a look at the current Apple Store lineup. For around 1600€ you get the best Macbook. But all you can do with this device is writing text, surfing the web and watching a video here and there. It’s an iPad that runs OS X. I really think it’s a great device for an average user that does only do lightweight stuff on his computer, but it is far from being a powerful machine for developers for example.

Next, there is the Macbook Pro. Those are pretty solid devices. But I’m looking for a device that might still be ok to use in 5 years, just as my iMac did. So I have to go up the ladder and take a model that’s a bit more in the higher priced range… A bit more means the one I would buy for my usage costs around 3000€. But I would still need an additional monitor because I can’t work on a tiny 15“ screen all day. Add another 1000€ for a decent 4k display.

Ok, no Macbook. How about an iMac. Same problem here: The entry level price looks ok. But I can’t afford to by a 2000€ computer every two years because the CPU, RAM or hard drive are already too small today. I have to go to the higher price range to get a device that will still be good in a few years. The model I would take is a 5k iMac with a 512GB SSD – not even all the data on my current Mac would fit on it, but a spinning disc these days? Come on! – and 32 GB of RAM, because RAM is always the problem. Seriously, how can they even offer a Macbook with 8GB RAM? It’s ridiculous! So, my iMac would be 3100€. That’s 55% more for a device which would be just as future proof as my old computer. Also, can you see how this is almost the same price as a MacBook Pro but it actually has a 5k display included? How does this make any sense at all?

What I want to say with all this: If you are aiming for a future proof Mac these days you have to throw way more money at it than you had to 5 years ago. More often than not, similar priced models are even too weak for professional usage today. The iPad Pro with decent storage, a pencil and a keyboard will cost 1100$. Can you work with this device for the whole day? Really? Then you’re lucky, because your new workhorse costs a third of the machine I would need to use each day. But still… you would have to buy one every two years to keep up with the evolution of this device category.

Is this a way of Apple to try pushing people slowly towards tablet devices with shorter replacement cycles like an iPad Pro in the future? I’m really curious where this is going… I can’t imagine me working on iOS the whole day. The system is just not made for it. If they evolve iOS in the direction of OS X in the sense of productivity and the way people can work with it… fine with me! But I also really hope that they don’t force people to jump through hoops to get their stuff done.

I think we’re not that close to the tablet-only solution at the moment. But the pricing of Macs is really not comprehensible for me anymore. I would love me some new shiny Mac that would solve some issues I have with the 5 year old technology I own. I honestly don’t know what to do here… I’m not switching to another platform for sure, because let’s be honest: they all suck. But for now, the Apple Store is closed for me. I get what I pay for.