Apple is apparently disappointed enough in its Mac Pro computer — and its broader Mac offerings for creative professionals, some of whom have become vocally frustrated — that it just took an unusual step: It pre-announced that it’s working on a new version that won’t even ship this year.
Hosting a small group of journalists at a company lab building, Apple executives promised modest updates to the current, $3,000-and-up Mac Pro — last revised in late 2013, according to MacRumors, which rates it “don’t buy” — and updated iMacs that would be useful for pro-level users.
They also provided stats to suggest that the vast majority of “pro” users are already well suited by other Macs: As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber — who was in attendance — writes: “Even among pro users, notebooks are by far the most popular Macs. In second place are iMacs. The Mac Pro is third.”
But the upshot is that Apple will indeed try again with a new, “modular” desktop Mac Pro that’s better suited to the highest end of high-end Mac users. It just isn’t happening right now.
This is a rare admission of failure on Apple’s part, and is somewhat embarrassing. But it seems the right move. As Gruber writes:
There are really only two options at this point. The first would be to suck it up and wait until the next-generation Mac Pros are ready to be announced, and suffer in silence while more and more people point to the current Mac Pro’s stagnation as proof that Apple is abandoning the Mac Pro market.
The second would be to bite the bullet and tell the world what your plans are, even though it’s your decades-long tradition — a fundamental part of the company’s culture — to let actual shipping products, not promises of future products, tell your story.
Apple chose the latter.
Apple unveiled its current Mac Pro in 2013, with a surprising external design — it’s a cute little trash can! — and an internal design that prohibited most expansion and tinkering. The company called it “the most radical Mac ever” and “our vision for the future of the pro desktop.”
Longtime Apple product marketing SVP Phil Schiller, who revealed the computer, even sniped at critics that day, saying onstage, “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass!”
Yet that Mac Pro has become an outsized headache for Apple, which hasn’t updated it nearly as much as it should have, and its users, who can’t upgrade it easily themselves. In recent months, several Apple users have declared their frustration with pro-level Macs, even threatening to move to Windows PCs. Apple seems to be taking them seriously.
Why bother? After all, the iPhone is Apple’s real business now, representing the majority of the company’s revenue and profit. Along with iPads and consumer-grade Macs, isn’t Apple fine?
Perhaps, but high-end Mac users are still a market worth catering to.
Without Apple’s pro Mac customer base — the design, publishing and film industries, among others — the company probably wouldn’t have survived long enough for Steve Jobs and Jony Ive to save its future with the iMac, iPod and iPhone. It’s a core part of the Apple story.
And it represents the sort of influential, creative, technical users that Apple should want to impress and delight — and use as ambassadors for the rest of its products. It’s simply a market that Apple shouldn’t be willing to cede to the Windows world.
Based on its willingness and humility today to chalk up a misstep and tease a future product early, Apple seems to recognize this.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.