I am convinced that Apple will release a retina iMac in late 2013, and chances are, it will be a “Pro” model to replace the Mac Pro.
Some interesting speculation on where the Apple product lines might head and what retina displays mean for them.
I keep thinking that there are a number of pieces of Apple’s product line due or overdue for the classic Jonathan Ive “I think we need to rethink how we do this” treatment: the iMac hasn’t had a significant redesign in a good while. Ditto the Mini. Ditto (except for the move to Thunderbolt) the Cinema display.
The realities of the market Apple is selling this stuff into has changed significantly, too. More and more of us have moved to a “laptop first, laptop only” relationship with our computers. The market for the Mac Pro continues to thin out and it’s become a true niche device for serious high end graphic/video/photo geeks and developers who need it’s power to drive Xcode.
The mini has split it’s audience into people who need/want a desktop to supplement their laptop and people who use it to drive their home media systems. It’s also used by some (as are iMacs) instead of Mac Pros, because in reality, the Mini and iMac more than serves the needs that used to require a Mac Pro for many users.
Apple has unofficially said the’ll have a replacement for the Mac Pro out in 2013. It’s fairly safe to assume there’ll be a major move into retina displays, and so we ought to see the iMac revamped, and the Displays, and….
I keep wondering if it really makes sense for Apple to manage all of these products? Especially if you start thinking that it’s likely they’ll do both a Retina iMac and a non-Retina iMac to keep the pricing of low-end units accessible, it seems to me the product line starts to get — complicated.
If I tried to think this through the way I’d expect Apple to, I start thinking it’s time to blow it all up and do it differently.
You start with the Cinema Display. Apple currently does three: the 27″ display, the 27″ display with attached computer (aka iMac), and a 21″ display with attached computer.
So how about 24″ Display, 24″ retina display and 27″ Retina display?
And then if you want, attach a computer to it? Instead of doing an iMac, a Mini and a Mac Pro, you do a CPU unit that can either attach onto a display and act as a consolidated computer, or run headless. And you do a consumer class version and a “mac pro” high end version. One form factor, multiple price/performance points.
To support the data needs that some use the Mac Pro for, you also build a Data unit. It connects to the CPU unit via thunderbolt, and you can mix and match up to, say, six or eight drives into it. It’ll support various raid configurations, and we can all is “mini iSan” or something.
With USB 3.0, bluetooth, Thunderbolt and Apple’s modular power setup and magic ability to create connectors, they could create a set of pieces that give them a lot of flexibility to sell standard configurations that hit many different price and performance points. Standard configurations can ship with pieces already mated together.
And it’d give both Apple and its customers the ability to upgrade a given piece of the system when they want, where with the iMac today, if you want a faster CPU, you have to buy a new monitor with it.
So if I were running the show (hah!), I’d do the next generation of hardware differently. Think modular. Think flexible. And by doing so, you’re actually making your life managing the product life of all of the product lines much simpler….