Apple has a “Pro” problem — while some products bearing the label are clearly intended for proprofessional use (like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro and the Mac Pro), years of Apple and competitors slapping the name on wireless headphones and slightly fancier phones have made it hard to tell what “Pro” stands for same. That’s why my ears perked up when Apple used a different word to describe his new computer and monitor that clearly targeted his audience of creative professionals: “Studio”. I wondered if I was witnessing the start of a new brand for Apple.
From the jump, Apple made it clear who the Mac Studio and Studio Display were for. It showed they were used by musicians, 3D artists and developers in his presentation, and the message was clear: these are products for creative professionals or people who aspire to become creative professionals. You know it exactly the same crowd he is targeted with MacBook Pro ads for years.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, I wonder when the iPhone Studio will come out,'” Jonathan Balck, co-founder and managing director of ad agency Colossus, said in an interview with The edge. “Pro was exclusive, and it was about a way of doing things, but the whole culture is moving towards creativity,” he adds, while wondering if we might see the Apple Pro brand change to become the Studio brand instead.
I hear people asking, “Isn’t it a bit early to predict this, given that we’ve only seen two products?” It’s a very fair question. But it definitely seems like a first step – for me the Mac Studio line is a clear successor to Apple’s iMac Pro. Both computers are powered by monstrous processors and come standard with 10GB Ethernet and a healthy crop of Thunderbolt and USB ports. I’m convinced that if Apple had released the new Studio just two years ago, it would have put “Pro” in the name. (However, to play devil’s advocate, I’m not sure it would have been for the Studio Display.)
Some marketing experts tell me that the word “Pro” is starting to get long in the tooth, and not just from overuse. “The previous term Pro is, in my opinion, outdated and dry,” says Keith Dorsey, founder and CEO of creative marketing group and management company YoungGuns Entertainment.
Black agrees; “If you look at the word Pro, it’s in many ways limiting,” he says in an interview, explaining that when you say a product is “professional,” it’s conjuring up ideas like job interviews, wallets and distance. Professional products, he says, seem to be reserved for those who use creativity to earn a paycheck.
By comparison, I’ve heard a lot that “Studio” is a big word given Apple’s target audience. “Apple has always been about empowering the creative class, and studio brings that up and has nothing but positive connotations. Music studio. Design studio. Photography studio. It’s an idea we all idealize,” says Matt Talbot, creative director of ad agency WorkInProgress, in an email, “Apple has always been a club you want to be a part of,” he adds. Studio” might make you feel like part of the Apple club and the creator club that so many people aspire to, he suggests.
Michael Janiak, co-founder of design agency Pattern, puts it another way: “It definitely conjures up a particular kind of mood and environment in which creative work happens,” he says in an email. -mail. “To me, it seems the purpose of using the term is more to send a cultural signal to current and potential customers.” Balck says it conjures up the image of a studio where people can come together and collaborate on projects, not necessarily for money but to achieve creative momentum. (It’s not far from how Apple launched its “town square” stores.)
That’s of course why this isn’t the first time we’ve seen companies use the word ‘studio’ to market similar products. Apple actually reuses the Studio Display name from a line of monitors sold in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but nearly every Windows PC maker has mined the word more recently: Razer and Lenovo have created versions “studio” of certain laptop models, HP has its ZBook Studio line, Asus has the incredibly named ProArt StudioBook. Nvidia even has an entire “Studio” program that certifies computers from the likes of Dell, HP, Maingear, MSI, and just about any PC maker that wants to entice creators with a bit more cash to spend.
The real studio elephant might be Microsoft – its Surface Studio desktop was marketed directly to artists and could fold up into a huge drawing tablet. It now also has the Surface Laptop Studio. Not all of these products were successful, but the fact is that Apple is turning a well-known record.
The reason Apple might need it, though, is that it’s led the industry to misuse the word “Pro” to the point where it’s lost its meaning. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it started (although in my mind it was with the two-port MacBook Pro model), but now the word is slapped on everything. Want to sell wireless headphones for even more money? These are now Pro headphones. Want to have a regular and fancy version of your phone? No problem, call the nice the Pro.
To quote my colleague Chaim Gartenberg in his article on what it means for a phone to be pro:
For the most part, both for Apple and the rest of the world, the “pro” label does not imply that the hardware is meant to be “professional”. It’s marketing shorthand for “better”, in the same way that “plus” has apparently become the streaming service term of choice or “lite” denotes a less feature-rich version of an app or device. .
But since Apple also makes a few truly professional products, there is always a slight confusion. Seeing the word Pro on an Apple product can mean it’s an expandable computer that can pack 1.5TB of RAM. Or it could just mean it has an extra camera – and a flashy ad campaign to try to convince you that no, really, this phone will make you the next Rian Johnson).
But Apple’s new word, “studio,” seems ready to excite the company’s target audience.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think the “studio” brand has been widely used to make computers perform better than they actually are. And that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case with the Mac Studio, which seems to be quite capable of doing creative work. That means fewer “Apple’s new Pro isn’t really for pros” headlines for Apple.
However, talking to some members of The edgefrom its own video and design team, I didn’t feel like it was an absolute shoo-in for creative work. While it has Apple’s most powerful processor to date, it’s not necessarily what all creatives are looking for. Grayson Blackmon, our lead designer (who also helped us review the Mac Pro), says he’s not sure the risk of working on a computer with a new CPU is worth the extra performance, which may not even not make much difference to a lot of his work.
“I don’t care about Mac Studio,” he tells me, but he says he could imagine the types of people who would. “The big studios, which are at the end of the life of their machines, will be interested in it. They can just buy a whole bunch of them, and they’re good to go for a while. On the other hand, independent freelancers or very small studios may like this thing. This is a price within their budget.
Our Senior Video Director Becca Farsace says she might be interested in the Studio as an upgrade to her personal machine, but only after seeing tests proving it’s capable of long edits with 4K video. It wasn’t the branding that sold it, however. “I care so little about the name… But I’m glad to see them labeled correctly.” Pro is so arbitrary, but I could absolutely see that in studios so much,” she said, adding a shrugging emoji.
For the most part, it seems the word “Studio” is used for products that might actually belong to a creative studio. But what about in two or three years? If Apple tries, as Talbot puts it, “to increase equity in the Studio lineup,” will it be tempted to repeat the mistakes it made with “pro?” We’ve seen this a bit before – Apple has some decidedly mainstream products that have a liberal use of the word “Studio” in their Beats line, although I’m sure some mastered a song using these headphones.
Apple knows that not everyone with a creative passion project has the same needs as professional filmmakers or musicians. I’ve done quite a few videos in my day, and none of them would have been too much to handle for something like a $1300 Mac Mini – but imagine how cool and hip I would have felt. if I had been editing on a Mac Studio (which, by the way, starts at $2000). What if Apple could take that sentiment and use it to sell a set of AirPods? AirPods Pro might look old and uncreative compared to a new set of AirPods Studio.
Yet Apple has already been claiming for a few years that the MacBook Pro’s microphones are “studio-grade” – when in reality most creatives will lack a dedicated mic setup. In this case, studio quality is meant to evoke a feeling rather than describing the actual quality of something. Recording with the MacBook’s microphones might make you sound like your favorite podcaster, but it probably won’t make you sound like them. It’s the same trap Apple fell into with “Pro.”
“There is always a risk that the word will be overused and eventually detached from its original meaning,” says Janiak. At the moment, Apple seems to have a lot of creative attention with the Studio – if it wants to keep it, it’ll have to make sure it doesn’t waste that brand equity on products that don’t deserve it.