Apple Discontinues iMac Pro

image credit: Apple

published by Chand Bellur
March 12, 2021 at 9:32 p.m.
  • Launched in 2017, the iMac Pro sought to refresh Apple’s languishing professional Macintosh lineup.
  • Based on the 2012 iMac, the Pro model features Intel Xeon processors and high-performance specs, making it appropriate for recording and film studios.
  • In 2013, Apple replaced its classic tower Mac Pro with a canister-shaped design, which saw only slight improvement over the years.
  • After four years without a refresh, Apple launched the iMac Pro, making it more difficult for professional users to upgrade hardware without a service technician.
  • Apple’s latest professional Macintosh desktop returns to the tower design, with user-upgradable hardware, making the iMac Pro obsolete.

What is the iMac Pro?

The iMac Pro is a hybrid of a Mac Pro and an iMac. Essentially, it’s an all-in-one professional-grade computer, ready to take on powerful tasks such as multitrack recording, animation, and video editing. The machine is more of a beefed-up iMac than a one-off of the Mac Pro line of user-upgradable desktop computers.

In terms of specs, the iMac Pro is a powerful machine; however, the most powerful Windows PCs easily outclass it. Some professionals, such as audio/visual and art-oriented talent, tend to prefer Apple products. Perceived as more stylish and easier to use, the iMac Pro caters to the hip, artistic professional.

The iMac Pro isn’t just fluff. It has impressive specs. It’s just that, as with most Apple products, consumers can get more bang for their buck elsewhere. The machine comes equipped with a 10-core Intel Xeon processor, with upgrade options for up to 18-cores. Such extreme processing power dramatically reduces rendering times for animation and video effects. Starting at $4999, this machine is for professional users requiring top-notch performance to complete essential projects quickly.

Apple didn’t skimp on the screen. The iMac Pro features a gorgeous 5K retina display capable of producing one billion colors. The average college student or office worker doesn’t need an iMac Pro. This machine is for media professionals on tight deadlines.

The iMac Pro is locked down compared to other professional-grade desktop computers from Apple. In fact, even upgrading or replacing the SSD is difficult, as it’s cryptographically matched with the T2 security chip. Although processors, memory, and other components aren’t soldered in, they’re also tricky to access by design.

The iMac Pro is for professionals who have no desire to fiddle with hardware. Apple wants customers to take this in for service. Perhaps some larger media companies have certified Apple technicians on staff, with a cache of spare parts. Most IT departments need to possess spare iMac Pros because in-house service isn’t typically feasible. Apple sells even more units by complicating repairs and upgrades.

Apple seems to have assumed that the market for a locked-down, professional-grade desktop computer was larger. The entire Mac lineup has a minuscule market share. The iMac Pro, with limited appeal, isn’t something that can realize economies of scale effects like a Mac Mini or low-end MacBook Pro.

Apple Discontinues iMac Pro

Although Apple still sells one remaining iMac Pro model, it will no longer manufacture the all-in-one desktop computer. Apple will continue to support the iMac Pro with software updates and customer service, even though it will no longer produce the machine.

Researching why Apple discontinued the products is elusive. In fact, Apple doesn’t even mention that it stopped manufacturing the iMac Pro on its website. After all, who would buy it? Even though Apple pledges to support it, spare parts become an issue when they stop manufacturing it. If you’re looking to buy an iMac Pro today and have it serviced five years down the line, it’s a dubious prospect. I’ve experienced great difficulty having a 2017 27″ iMac serviced.

Apple recently refreshed its line of Mac Pro desktop computers, justifying the iMac Pro’s obsolescence. These are even more powerful desktop workstations than the iMac Pro. Users can easily upgrade hardware on a Mac Pro, by design.

With a viable professional desktop machine, the iMac Pro made little sense. It fits the pattern of “Pro” Apple products. If there’s a MacBook Pro, maybe there should be an iMac Pro? Although it seems fitting, consumers didn’t seem to go for a beefed-up iMac.

The iMac is for grandparents, not Grammy award-winning recording engineers. Adding a “Pro” to the model name and making it more powerful didn’t popularize it amongst the tech-savvy. Some prominent Mac fans had an intervention with Apple over the direction of its professional computer roadmap.

Apple admitted that the Mac Pro makes up a small percentage of its overall computer business. They neglected it in favor of the iPhone because it’s not profitable. That’s a rational decision, but it leaves professional users in the lurch. Apple may be getting too big to accommodate niche consumers.

Unfortunately, specific sales figures on the iMac Pro remain elusive. One can easily find numbers regarding Mac sales, but not ones broken down to specific models. Suffice it to say, if the iMac Pro were a smash hit, Apple would still make it, and they’d be crowing about it. As it stands, beyond a few web pages to sell it, they don’t even acknowledge its existence anymore.

iMac Pro Wasn’t Easily Upgradable

Another reason for the iMac Pro’s demise is its lack of upgradability. Average consumers might not want to upgrade their machines, but professional users expect more. Most people use inexpensive Windows PCs — even iPhone owners. Even a baseline Mac is extravagant for most people, given that Windows PCs cost a fraction of the price.

Although not all professional Mac users are computer aficionados, they know more than the average consumer. Apple’s attempt to sell a locked-down, difficult-to-upgrade computer to knowledgable, rational, and professional computer users is laughable.

Even Apple’s attempt to sell computers seems like a folly. Smartphones are replacing computers for many people. As the technology improves, more casual computer users can make do with a smartphone or tablet. Macintosh market share is meager compared to Windows. Android is the most popular operating system in the world right now, and it’s mainly running on smartphones and tablets, not computers.

Apple may exit the computer business entirely. The Mac’s market share is already tiny. Demand for computers has been shrinking since 2011, with a small bubble in 2019, due to the end of Windows 7. With economies of scale and mass manufacturing being central to Apple’s profitability, a dwindling computer market may see the Cupertino tech giant eventually moving away from the enterprise entirely.

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