03
Mar
09

Apple Delivers. Or maybe not.

hearno.jpgToday, Apple has again demonstrated their incomparable ability to not listen to their customers– the customers that purchase their computing products.

Today was the day, for all those who have been clamoring for years for more choice and for more options in the number of desktop products, Today was the day that Apple delivered not one, but two models. Not new but the same models they already had, and have had for more than four long years. (equivalent to 20 human years)

Many expected, hoped, pleaded that Apple would finally add a mid-size machine into the center of their computer product line. .

Remember, the G3 and G4 towers were once affordable and customizable. Let’s look back:

CUPERTINO, California—January 28, 2003—Apple® today announced the fastest and most affordable Power Mac® G4 line ever featuring a choice of a single 1 GHz, dual 1.25 GHz or dual 1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 processors with prices ranging from $1,499 (US) to $2,699 (US). 

g4tower.gif… Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Hardware Product Marketing said “With Firewire 800 and support for AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth, the new Power Macs are the ultimate systems for the digital professional.”

Based on Apple’s advanced Xserve™ architecture, … the new Power Mac G4 line harnesses the power of Apple’s UNIX-based Mac OS® X “Jaguar” with symmetric multiprocessing capabilities to deliver an incredible 21 gigaflops (21 billion floating point operations per second) of performance.

The Power Mac G4 provides incredible expansion capabilities with five slots, including four open high-performance … slots and two external drive bays for optical drives.  Offering four 3.5-inch hard disk drive expansion bays …

The new Power Mac G4 also adds a new high-speed FireWire 800 port, the next generation high-speed serial interface, in addition to two FireWire 400 ports and four USB … ports. With a dedicated… slot for graphics, the line offers… dual display support…

The new Power Mac G4 line also offers the latest in communications with support for high-speed … wireless networking, … and optional built-in Bluetooth for wireless connectivity to a range of peripherals such as cell phones and PDAs. Apple’s new iSync software is included, so customers can automatically synchronize address books and calendars between Macs and Bluetooth capable cell phones.

The line also offers 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet built-in for the ultimate in Ethernet performance. 

I worked in a studio that closed shop so I had to get my hands on a Mac tower right quick to try and grab some work from all those orphaned clients. I went to PowerMax and bought a Dual G4 tower for $999. I then upgraded the DVD burner to the best I could find, put the startup drive where the Zip drive would go, and put in four more hard drives for editing digital video- two of them were in a hardware RAID-0. I burned out drives. I burned out burners. This machine served me well for years because specs_dimensions20090303.jpgI could easily open it up and upgrade most anything- even the processor. All for $999. Sure, used, but even brand new (see above) they started at $1500.

So what’s wrong with today’s announcements?

They fail to put back into Apple’s computer line up a similar, user configurable machine, that doesn’t blow past $3000 by the time you actually configure it to be usable.

Let’s compare today’s machines to the one mentioned above and see what Apple has improved over so many years, what they’ve taken away, and what you really get with today’s machines.

comparison.jpg

Yes, the Mini finally offers dual monitor support, and a real graphics processor. But it’s still limited hard drive, limited optical drive, limited processor, limited RAM and really limited expandability leave a huge gaping hole for Apple to fill between their $600 model and their $2500 model.

It’s a shame to realize that Apple used to offer a user-expandable box starting at $1500 with the same number of optical bays and hard drive bays as today’s Mac Pro. It even had more PCI slots than today’s Mac Pro. Does this mean that today’s potential Apple customers are just swimming in cash and can afford the price premium for expandability compared to 5-7 years ago?

Is the economy really that good where you are?

dow.gif

In a previous post about moving to Dell, you can easily choose between 4-5 different desktop machines, each with a fair bit of user customizability. You buy as big a box as you need, and then you can add or change hard drives, optical drives, PCI cards and more. For Apple, this privilege has an entry fee of $2500. dell_optiplex_755.gifFor companies that thrive on satisfying their customers needs, you can get a customizable machine- about the size a rack-mountable Mac Mini Pro ought to be- starting at just $399.

When I configure it with a Core 2 Duo E7500 (2.93GHz, 3M ,1066MHz, FSB) and 256MB nVidia GeForce 9300 GE (Dual DVI/ VGA /1 TV-out), and remove the optical drive, I get the machine up to $680. I can then drop in a Blu-ray burner for $200. Put in two 2 TB hard drives. Max the RAM. Put in a PCI card for HD video capture. Clearly, it’s not hard to make something like this.

It’d take Apple’s Mac desktop CPU line up from a Goldilocks style “too small and “too big” to include something that, for many people, would be “just right.”

goldilocks.jpg

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3 Responses to “Apple Delivers. Or maybe not.”


  1. 1 graf
    March 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    “Many expected, hoped, pleaded that Apple would finally add a mid-size machine into the center of their computer product line.”

    By now I think most people realize there’s no way that’s going to happen. Otherwise they’re deluding themselves. Towers once accounted for a significant percentage of Apple’s revenue, but these times are long gone. Even that Dell expandable box is a relic of the past, desktop sales are on the decline, they are slated to drop by a whooping 32 percent in 2009. Some people will always need a desktop (faster, more bangs for the bucks) but most people are trading them for laptops (portable, fast enough).

    http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=904412

    If you’re not in Apple’s target market, don’t expect things to change. You should consider your options: hackintosh, switch to PC, whatev. :-)

  2. 2 jonathon
    March 6, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    That Dell is just about the ugliest heap I’ve ever seen. That, along with its crappy operating system, would suck the inspiration out of most creative professionals who use Macs. Speaking of which, Apple computers do not compete on price, are not for price sensitive individuals and are definitely not for those who feel that a computer is simply the sum of its parts. Apple sells an experience that includes an inspiring design and operating system, along with a consistent and reliable user experience. That is why the resell value from a Mac is the highest in the industry and why Mac users are also evangelists. If you that doesn’t compute for you, then you should not buy a Mac. We’re not elitists, just people who don’t mind paying a premium to get the experience we want.

  3. March 7, 2009 at 10:42 am

    First of all, that Dell, fits in a gear rack, holds two hard drives, an easily replaceable full size optical and starts at $399. I’m not talking OS, I’m talking hardware design for professional use.

    BMW cars do not compete on price.
    They are not just wheels and an engine.
    However, BMW sees that, in order to reach more customers, they need a diverse range of products. 1 series, 3 series, 5 series, 6 series, 7 series, and that’s just sedans. There’s sports coupes, roadsters, M series, hydrogen, crossover and SUVs.

    I am a Mac person. I use one to create broadcast television programming for PBS.
    But I need more choice than a 1 series and an X5 in my Macotomobile lineup.
    I need a X3. Or a 5 series.
    Something with more space, more horsepower, more configurability, yet cheaper and physically smaller than the Mac Pro / X5.

    By offering a wide range of products they ensure that customers don’t need to look to other manufacturers to get something they want.
    Apple offers 4 different laptops now.
    Apple offers how many different size and design iPods?
    But only two Mac CPUs – one is clearly limited for consumer use.

    So professionals have a choice of, what, one CPU? ONE?
    The savvy that is present in the iPod and laptop divisions is completely absent from the CPU division.

    Anthony


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