For those who rely on, or love, Mac desktop computers, 2016 has been a deeply dispiriting year. The last new iMac was launched more than a year ago, the current Mac mini is over two years old, and the current Mac Pro – Apple’s flagship – started shipping three years ago. The only new models announced or shipped this year were the MacBook in the spring, and the MacBook Pro, which many Pro users reckon is far from Pro.
There has been great speculation that this marks the decline in Apple’s interest in developing and selling desktop computer systems, when next month we should be celebrating the Mac’s thirty-third birthday.
Many CEOs take the opportunity of Christmas and the New Year to thank their employees, set some records straight, and give them a glimpse of what they will be returning to after the holidays. According to a leaked message from Tim Cook to all Apple employees, reported by Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch, the future of Mac desktop systems is bright, with “great desktops” in the development pipeline.
Not only did Cook go out of his way to settle the question of whether Apple is “committed to desktops”, but he explicitly set out some of the reasons for this bright future. Cook – here undoubtedly speaking for Apple corporate policy – considers that desktop computer systems offer “far better performance”, with their larger display sizes, more memory, bigger storage, and greater variety in “I/O”. Apple recognises that desktop Macs are “really important, and in some cases critical, to people”, and “very strategic” for Apple.
Another important strand to his message may be surprising: he wrote “with so many things that we’ve done, we don’t do it because there’s a return on investment”. Thinking back for a moment, there is an embarrassing abundance of examples, such as Newton, the Xserve, and the current Mac Pro. Cook also alluded to suggestions that the Watch might fall into the same category; Apple does what it thinks is interesting and might lead somewhere.
It’s a shame that Tim Cook hasn’t sent this out as a press release. It’s what Apple needs in 2017, and what Mac users need most of all. Maybe in spite of all the other consequences that now seem lined up for next year, we will at last have some new Mac desktops, and some more of Apple’s magic.