Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Tim Cook feels the wrath of the Apple power user

June 13, 2012: 12:41 PM ET

Forced to telegraph future product plans, despite a promise to double down on secrecy

Image: Gizmodo

FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) power users -- professionals who do video editing and other computational heavy lifting with high-end software suites on multiple screens driven by top-of-the-line computer towers -- have been taking it on the chin lately.

Mac OS X Lion killed all the older versions of Adobe's (ADBE) Creative Suite and removed the all-windows Expose function many power users had come to depend on. Film editors who built their careers on Final Cut Pro found the latest upgrade almost unusable. And the Mac Pro -- the powerhouse workstation of the Mac line -- hadn't seen a refresh in nearly two years.

According to Moore's Law, that's the same as falling behind the rest of the world by a factor of 10.

So when 9to5Mac reported last week that a new Mac Pro might be unveiled Monday at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference, many of the 5,000 developers in the audience listened eagerly for a word -- any word -- about their beloved workstations.

Nothing.

That was bad enough. But when the Mac Pro appeared on Apple's online store sporting a "New" banner but with none of the new chips or features lavished on the consumer-oriented MacBook line, the power user community went nonlinear.

"The specs for the 'new' Mac Pro had hardly changed, except for a tiny, inconsequential processor clock bump," fumed Andy Hertzfeld of the original Mac team. "Still no Thunderbolt, still no USB 3.0, no SATA III or RAM speed improvements -- it seems like it's stuck in time in 2010.  The only thing that's still high-end about it is the bloated price."

"Mac Pro gets half-assed update," wrote Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper. "The message is clear: Apple doesn't give a shit about the Mac Pro."

The 4,000 "likes" that the Facebook group "We Want a New Macpro" had gathered two weeks ago shot up to over 18,000.

Apple PR, which had been hoping to bask in the glow of its other announcements, went into high gear. The "New" banner was hastily removed from the Apple store and high level staffers were dispatched to call reporters -- including the New York Times' David Pogue -- to assure them on background that the company hadn't given up on the Mac Pro.

Then word came from the highest level of all. CEO Tim Cook, who less than two weeks earlier had promised to "double down" on secrecy, took the time to compose an e-mail to a power user named Franz, who promptly posted it on the Mac Pro Facebook group. It read, in full: (via Macworld)

Franz,

Thanks for your email. Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn't have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today's event, don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.

We've been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.

We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros.

Tim

"Something really great" isn't exactly a promise to bring the Mac Pro up to snuff. Or to address the rest of the power users' complaints. But it's a start.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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