Gadgets for humans

Apple showed a rare sign of vulnerability today (and it’s a great thing)

Mac Pro

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Apple is “completely rethinking the Mac Pro,” after it realizing it had created a device that was hard to upgrade in the long run. You can read all about that here. But the way the news came about is even more fascinating.

It involved no flashy events, no specs, no teaser images. Instead, the company held a small meeting with a handful of journalists (no, we weren’t invited </3)  with the basic purpose of reassuring consumers that something was on the way for the Mac – it just won’t arrive this year.

As Mashable points out, it was extremely uncharacteristic: “It revealed a new product, not hours, days, or weeks, but months in advance.” It could have simply held its cards close to its chest – it’s not like wouldn’t have sold a ton of Mac Pros anyway – but for once, Apple chose not to.

There are several ways you can interpret that. Maybe Apple just realized it’s been 1,280 days since the Mac Pro was last updated (it at least got a spec bump today). Maybe Apple is actually beginning to feel threatened by Microsoft push to embrace creators. Or maybe Phil Schiller & Co just had some free time to kill. Whatever your take, it’s a refreshing change of pace for the company.

My first ever computer was a Mac and I own a 2015 MacBook Pro, but I’ve always been a Windows guy at heart. When you’re the kind of person who likes to tinker, it’s hard to be enamored with a company that traditionally takes the attitude that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” I have no doubt Apple engineers pour their heart and souls into their products, but as a brand, Apple can be annoyingly arrogant.

I mean, maybe it has reason to be. It makes very good, very shiny products. But the tone of Apple’s past apologies can be summed up with Steve Jobs’ infamous “you’re holding it wrong.” Even when it’s listening, the company will talk over you.

Today was different. Take this quote from Schiller, courtesy of BuzzFeed:

“The current Mac Pro … was constrained thermally and it restricted our ability to upgrade it. And for that, we’re sorry to disappoint customers.”

That quote – and everything else emerging from today’s news – suggests the next Mac Pro will be more expandable, while keeping Apple’s expected design flourishes. Apple is owning up to its mistakes and fixing them.

Of course, Apple is always listening. It addressed both antennagate and bendgate in subsequent versions of the iPhone, after all. And the small event had a practical purpose too, in that it gave Mac Pro users a reason to hold off on considering an upgrade to Windows. Now that Apple set the bar sky high for its most powerful computer, people will spend the next year in anxious anticipation.

Still, by actually opening up, showing some vulnerability, and admitting it had room to improve, the company showed that it actually, well, cares. It makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, Apple might respect my own intelligence as a consumer.

I suspect this kind of transparency will continue to be a rare occurrence, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a side of Apple even a Windows guy would like to see more of.

Published April 4, 2017 — 23:29 UTC