Minding the Gap in the Mac Desktop Range

Apple’s new Mac Pro’s are fantastic machines. True powerhouse workstations with enough grunt and expandability to satisfy professionals in everything from scientific research to 3D design and every imaginable creative profession along the way.

Faster than the stunning Quad G5, with enough room for 16GB RAM, 2TB hard drive storage and two DVD burners, there’s little else a Photoshop or Final Cut jockey could possibly want. Trouble is they’re priced to match.

Don’t get me wrong, $2499 for the standard config. is good value and stands up well to comparisons with similarly specified machines from PC manufacturers like Dell. But for someone who needs a reasonably powerful and expandable Mac without the sheer grunt of the Mac Pro, Apple has little to offer.

Yes, the Mac mini is a great machine for many tasks and if most of your work involves using iLife, Office, or online applications, it’s great. Likewise the iMac looks great and serves its market well. But there are many Mac users and potential Mac users who won’t buy either because they need, or sometimes think they need to add PCI cards, they’re own display, or internal storage. There are games players who need a GPU capable of handling today’s games without dropping frames left right and centre. They don’t all have $2500 to drop on the Mac Pro and so won’t buy a Mac.

That’s a great shame, because I have a hunch that those people make up a significant number of potential sales. If it is to significantly expand its desktop market share Apple has to do something it hasn’t done for at least the last decade — get inside the heads of potential customers and figure out what they will pay money for. Not what they need, that’s irrelevant. It’s what they think they need and what they desire that counts. Apple has proved itself adept recently at telling us what we need and then persuading us to part with cash for it. Now it needs to flip that around. Otherwise it will remain a niche player in the desktop market forever.

6 Responses to “Minding the Gap in the Mac Desktop Range”

  1. RBoylin Says:

    I’m one of the Mac Gap people. I’m thinking that the iMac will get the Conroe processor. This should be updated with a quad core chip next year. However, the gap remains and should be filled by a new product with limited expandability. An enclosure small enough to sit on top of the desk might protend the return of the Cube. With chips having many cores anticipated next year the need for multiple chips fades. The bus and memory speeds should increase as well. As soon as the cost of the DDR2 EEC memory drops I can see the new Cube introduced.

  2. Indy Says:

    You can configure a Mac Pro for $2150. (2 GHz instead of 2.6, and smaller harddrive). Not a big difference but still. And with an academic discount it is $1950 - a very reasonable price.

  3. scott Says:

    Yeah, I’d have to agree. Something in the $1600-$1900 range would have been nice. Maybe with two less PCI slots, and two less drive bays. I’d think about an iMac — but I need a bigger screen. *sigh*

  4. RMac Says:

    You need a bigger screen? The iMac supports 2045 x 1536 on an external monitor — simultaneously with the built in screen.

    I agree, though, we need a substanitally under-$2,000 desktop with some expandability, ESPECIALLY with respect to RAM. With the MacPros shipping with 1 GB, Robert’s Rule of RAM means that 2 GB is the new entry level RAM requirement, and anything beyond iWorks/AppleWorks demands 4 GB.

    Oh well, here’s hoping the MacPro really pushes down the price of used G5s.

  5. mac4xpd Says:

    Indy, you’re right. But that’s not a lot of discount for sacrificing 25% of the processor horsepower and a third of the hard drive space.

    RMac, I didn’t say ‘bigger screen’, I said ‘their own screen’ — lots of potential Mac buyers already have a display they like and don’t want to lose.

  6. rwahrens Says:

    I agree. I have a Dual 1 gig MDD G4 (circa 2002) that is still going strong, but in a year or two I’m going to be looking for a new tower. Laptops are nice, but they won’t take more than one drive, and forget about adding a new graphics card or adding a PCI card. I want (not necessarily need) an expandable tower, but I will NOT pay $2500 for what I think I need. I am not a graphics pro, but I am an amatuer photographer. I don’t need that BIG top of the line Mac (not that I would refuse if someone wanted to give me one!) , but I AM willing to pay $1600 - $1800 for what I DO think I need.

    Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have anything priced and equipped in a way that I am willing to pay for. My MacBook is great, but it’s not a tower, and I don’t use it like one.

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