Apple’s top execs including Tim Cook have often repeated that the macOS and iOS platforms will continue to coexist as separate entities that will never merge, even if Apple is trying to offer its customers a cohesive computing experience across devices. But actions often speak louder than words, and Apple’s recent product updates seemed to overwhelmingly favor the iOS side of things, prompting some people to speculate that the Mac might be on its way out.
Apple recently took an unusual step to address the concerns surrounding its Mac Pro line. In a meeting with select members of the media, the company announced a variety of product updates, including the new Mac Pro, a Pro display and an iMac Pro, just to name a few. In the process, Apple actually said it’ll never kill the Mac in favor of the iPhone, and we nearly missed it.
It’s easy to focus on these big Apple revelations and miss tiny details, especially sine Apple doesn’t always take time to address criticism or announce products in between planned product launches. But Apple made some important statements during its briefing with the press that seemed to indicate the Mac isn’t going to die, no matter how popular the iPhone platform (and I include the iPad here) continues to get.
While Apple focused on the various categories of Pro and non-pro Macs during its meeting with the press, it also gave away a couple of interesting details on its definition of Pro users. First off, Apple’s entire team uses Macs to create its next products, whether that means design or software.
“Some of our most talented folks are working on [the Mac],” Apple hardware engineering vice president John Ternus said, according to John Gruber’s notes. “I mean, quite frankly, a lot of this company, if not most of this company, runs on Macs. This is a company full of pro Mac users.”
So in a way, the next-gen iPhone and iPad that might someday be able to completely replace the Mac would still be designed on a Mac. iOS isn’t at a point where it can cover all the needs of professionals, including Apple employees. Apple desperately needs those upgraded MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac Pros to create its next-gen iOS products.
“There’s certain scientific loads that are very GPU intensive and they want to throw the largest GPU at it that they can,” Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said (via TechCrunch). “There are heavy 3D graphics [applications] or graphics and compute mixed loads. Those can be in VR, those can be in certain kinds of high-end cinema production tasks where most of the software out there that’s been written to target those doesn’t know how to balance itself well across multiple GPUs but can scale across a single large GPU.”
Let’s look at the quote above from a different angle. Some of these professionals working on high-end video content, including VR and high-end cinema, likely work on content that will target iPhone and iPad users. And Apple would probably prefer those professionals to pick a Mac over a Windows device.
Finally, one other quote from Federighi drives this point home.
“I think if you use Xcode downloads as a metric, it’s possible software developers are actually our largest pro audience,” he said. “It’s growing very quickly, it’s been fantastic.”
Xcode is the Apple product you need to make iPhone apps, a tool that doesn’t work on the iPhone. And Apple is certainly very motivated to have developers work on novel iOS apps that’ll iPhone users interested in the iPhone.
Never say never, as the saying goes, but it certainly looks like Apple has no plans to ditch the Mac now or in the future, considering what Apple’s top execs said. Without the Mac there would be no iPhone evolution. And for the iPhone to keep growing, Apple needs to create more and more powerful Macs that will meet the needs of its pro customers, employees and developers included.
If it eventually happens, it’ll be in a post-iPhone era, where iOS will have evolved into a platform that can deliver most, if not all, the features that are currently available only on “real” computers.