I came across a great blog post today that got me thinking about the way I and other technical types, look at Apple computers.
Two days ago, Apple had another one of their big 'dog and pony' shows. In it they announced new iMacs (very nice looking), new iLife 08 and iWork 08 software suites, and a new version of their .Mac online service. I anxiously followed along on the news of this event as it happened. There had been rumors of a new iMac and new iLife and iWork versions coming out, so those didn't surprise me. What I was waiting for has been my long desired 'Mac' computer. I was hoping for Apple to come out with essentially a lower end Mac Pro, one that wasn't so expensive, but was still upgradable. After some of the events of that show, I'm coming to believe that this desired 'Mac' is never going to happen.
If you look at the features of the new iLife and iWork versions, they are all very clearly aimed not as business customers or developer customers (like me), but as the 'Average Joe' home customer. Most of the features they added to the iLife suite were all centered around organizing and publishing photos and movies. The changes they made to the iWork suite (sort of a home version of Microsoft Office) were better word processing and the addition of a very nice, easy to use spreadsheet program. Both of these new software suites looked nice and I am very interested in buying them both for myself.
As for the new version of their .Mac service, they increased the amount of space it provides for backups and web space from 1GB to 10GB and added some easy to use picture displaying features. Despite these new features, my complaint about the site still existed. Why would I spend $99 per year for a web site I can show some pictures on, and 10GB of backup space? I can do all this myself! I think though, I was missing the whole point here.
The point I was missing is that all these improvements they made to their products really weren't aimed at me. Technically knowledgeable people like me are a rarity. Most of the world out there is not very familiar with computers. They just want the dern thing to work. They don't care how it works. All of Apple's products, including the iPhone, iPod, iMacs, AppleTV etc, are designed very clearly with the 'Average Joe' user in mind. Yes, they are high tech gadgets, but they are intentionally 'walled off' from modifications in various degrees. This is done to make them easier to use and more reliable for the target market - the average user. Technical people like me who want to write apps for the iPhone or tinker around inside their Macs are the exception, not the rule.
This focus on the average user is also why I think we won't see my 'Mac' anytime soon. The 'Mac' configuration I want would essentially be a desktop, with no monitor. The problem is, having to connect a monitor, computer, keyboard etc, can be very complicated for the average user. That is why they push laptops and iMacs so much. These are all in one computers. You pretty much just plug them in and the work, right out of the box. This is exactly what the average user needs and a computer company should provide. Yes, Apple has the Mac Mini, but that is very much a 'intro Mac'. Frankly, I'm surprised they even still sell that thing. It doesn't seem to quite fit Apple's average user focus. The MacPro that I want is expensive, but it strikes me as Apple's concession to the power user like me. They provide it, but it's big, powerful and expensive. This is clearly their computer aimed at developers, heavy video production people, etc. There isn't going to be a low end power machine.
Looks like I'm stuck with the Mac Pro. I'll be ordering one for myself tomorrow. I'll be sure to blog about that whole adventure once it arrives. It'll be my first Intel Mac.