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Apple is abandoning pros. Who will replace Apple?

System 6I have been using Apple computers since about 1991 (when I was 10), when I bought a used Mac Plus from my neighbor, an architect. I have owned a steady line of Macs since then, even though my parents and (later) employers often insisted on using Windows machines. I am highly competent in Windows 95 through XP, but have always been dissatisfied with its lack of core stability and Microsoft’s apparent lack of concern for the end user experience.

I’m not alone in the media world. Though Windows and Linux machines are often found on many media desks, Apple computer has been the primary tool of choice for photographers, designers, artists, editors and musicians since at least the mid-1990s (if not much earlier).

Apple’s move towards the consumer and prosumer markets

In the last three years, however, media professionals have become increasingly dissatisfied with Apple Computer. Some of the grievances include:

  • Lack of updates to the Mac Pro line
  • “Nerfing” the Macbook Pro line, making it more like Macbooks (weak graphics cards, fewer professional expansion options, increased difficulty in adding RAM and hard disks)
  • Late-2012 iMacs are more difficult to upgrade than nearly any previous Macintosh computer
  • Final Cut Pro X ($299) replaced Final Cut Studio ($1299) by downgrading its functionality, making it more affordable and more accessible to prosumer and enthusiast users, unusable by Hollywood and many high-end media professionals
  • USB 3.0 was adopted very late; 3rd-party USB 3.0 devices (PCI cards, USB 3.0 hubs) are mostly unsupported in Mac OS X as of today
  • With OS 10.7 and 10.8, OS X is on a path to become more like iOS

Apple is gradually moving away from the niche pro market (a few million users) to a the mainstream market (hundreds of millions, potentially a few billion users). Following the booming success of the iPod and iPhone, more and more casual users are switching to Mac and Apple wants to accommodate them.

From a business standpoint, Apple is under the legal obligation to maximize profits for its shareholders. As I write this, Apple is the most profitable company in the world, but competition from Google, Samsung and other high-tech companies is fierce and intensifying. If Apple wants to make as much money as possible, they seem to have decided that they can’t afford to invest in the relatively-miniscule, high-maintenence world of professionals. True, Apple’s marketing team hasn’t entirely abandoned professionals yet, but it’s clear that the development end is weaning us off of the Mac.

Fair enough, but where do we go now? Who will rise up to replace Apple? Continue reading »

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