Apple

Who will Apple’s M-series Mac Pro be for?

Apple, Mac, Mac Pro, Mac Studio, Apple Silicon

Apple’s introduction this week of the ultra-powerful Mac Studio M1 means the company already offers a Mac that offers more performance than most of its users need. With that in mind, people are now wondering who will the M-powered Mac pro be for?

The Mac Pro – not for the rest of us

The mainstream tech press likes to insist that Apple will always be a niche player in personal computing. But that completely ignores the rapid market share gains Apple has made thanks to Apple Silicon.

At the Mac Studio unveiling, Apple executives told us the company has seen Mac sales soar in each of the past six quarters. It’s not the trajectory you get from a niche player – and Mac Pro will push the business further.

Running an iteration of Apple’s M-series chip, Mac Pro won’t be for the rest of us. Why would it be?

Consider that even the entry-level M1 Mac mini immediately brought huge improvements across the most creative apps that for a large number of users it has become all the computer they need.

The first generation of M1 machines has already reset expectations across the industry. M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, or M1 Ultra, all four chips deliver power, performance, and performance-per-watt that put Macs at or near the top of the industry.

In truth, even entry-level machines offer the kind of computing performance you once had to buy high-end computers (at high prices) to get. The new Mac Studio is launching straight into some of the most premium markets.

When is better better than better?

What Apple currently offers is already sufficient for almost all professional users in almost all fields. You can never have too much compute performance, of course. Every few seconds saved from managing the most complex calculations represents at least a better work/life balance and, at the most demanding levels, probably means higher profits and productivity.

But when does performance improvement cease to be a need in the here and now and become a solution adapted to challenges that we have not yet met?

[Also read: One year on, developers still love Apple Silicon Macs]

I think that’s what we’ll see in Mac Pro – a computer, possibly powered by at least a pair of M1 Ultra processors, that can handle absolutely any task you throw at it. Think of it as an Apple workstation designed for tomorrow’s challenges, rather than a professional machine (as it had become) struggling to meet today’s needs.

It’s a very different animal.

So who’s going to buy it?

The Mac Pro will therefore be a high-end machine intended for very distinct markets:

  • Wealthy Apple fans who just want the best.
  • IT professionals with demanding niche needs in areas such as biochemical research, data analysis, engineering, machine learning or risk analysis.
  • And the developers.

For developers, the big opportunity will be to create applications that extend even Apple’s Mac Pro. Like Apple’s product designers, they will be empowered to dream and build entirely new solutions for still unpublished questions – software that is not yet available on other platforms.

It’s worth considering, for example, that some of the new AR experiences you’ll eventually find on non-Apple platforms will likely be created using Apple-provided computers. The fact that Apple now has an increasingly visible roadmap for future processor development is very significant.

This means that developers who create new solutions and high-end customers who adopt them can be sure that they won’t hit a platform-related dead end. It also means that mainstream users can be relatively certain that this increased power and performance will eventually reach entry-level Macs.

The dominant PC brand?

They will also be cheaper to operate than other systems. Intel’s Core i9-12900K may rival the performance of the M1 Ultra in some real-world tasks, but requires significantly more power to run. “Other companies may create laptops or SoC workstations with more performance, but Apple’s goal is to beat them in terms of performance per watt,” notes the Creative Strategies analyst. Ben Bajarin.

This combination of power, performance and energy efficiency means Apple will eventually become as dominant in personal computing as it is in smartphones. And the Mac Pro will become the computer other PC vendors aspire to beat.

I bet few expected to say that about Apple.

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