Apple: Design Macs for Other Types of Professionals

Originally published at: Apple: Design Macs for Other Types of Professionals - TidBITS

Do you feel like Apple’s “pro” Macs aren’t designed for your particular profession? You’re not alone. TidBITS publisher Adam Engst has been using Macs for over three decades, and he has some ideas for how Apple could better support professionals who don’t work with audio, video, or photos all day.

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Excellent article Adam, and one born from long gestation clearly. These are issues which have been bubbling below the surface for quite some time and your framing of the issue is pertinent.

Professional as a ‘here’s how and with what equipment I do my work’ is quite accurate and there’s certainly a need for Apple to address what you might call fit and finish with a view to lengthy engagement. I wouldn’t be happy typing on my wonderful M1 Max laptop all day without my Logitech Craft keyboard, a far more satisfying experience to use than the built in one.

Great Article, Adam. One thing I’d add is fix the Magic Mouse! I generally prefer the mouse to a trackpad, which seems too “fiddly” to me, but the way that Apple designed the mouse so that you have to turn it over to recharge means I end up connecting a wired mouse while my main mouse is charging. To emulate our current White House occupant, “C’mon Man! Put the charging port on the front so we can use the mouse while charging!”

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I got RSI from the Magic Mouse. Have always preferred the trackpads.

A feature on the 27" Thunderbolt Monitor that should be brought forward is the charging cable for the laptop. Can the MagSafe connector on the new MB Pros also provide Thunderbolt-4 data?

“ Grade your 8K video all day long, folks! (But I’d love it if someone would explain what that entails—Web searches haven’t turned up an explanation of what “grade color in HDR on 8K ProRes 4444 video” means or when it would be useful to do.)”

It’s managing a color space, aka color gamut, and setting up color profiles. Only top of the line professional software and hardware can manage color precisely for this caliber of video. It sounds to me to be the video equivalent of ColorSync, it it was a totally mind blowing, print industry wide, earth shattering Mac feature that no one in the industry expected a desktop computer could ever do. And it made grading and managing color super easy to do. It really did change the world when Steve Jobs introduced it:

When Macs evolved, ColorSync evolved along with them. Like with what Steve Jobs did with color space management in print, nobody thought it would be possible to do in video on a desktop. There’s a very interesting history about the development of ColorSync written by its developer here:

When working in video or high grade print, color fidelity is an absolutely critical, and very tricky, issue to manage. It’s very extremely difficult to get color to look the same across different devices as well as different media. ColorSync made it relatively easy, and there is a whole lot of different media now than there was in 1984. And I’ll bet there’s a lot more to come; maybe with AR/VR glasses and headsets in the near future.

P.S. I found the info about Apple considering a wax desktop printer to be something I’m glad they never got off the ground.

  • Can afford to connect two or even three $6000 Pro Display XDR screens at once

  • Understand performance benchmarks for apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, Maxon Cinema 4D with Redshift, NASA TetrUSS, and Vectorworks

I used to work for a post production company that worked, in addition to print and traditional video, commercials and digital signage for stadiums, outdoor video billboards, building wraps, wall and window rotating digital graphics. They also did post work for TV commercials and infomercials. The editors really did need two or three super high end monitors to get the jobs done.

Sure, no argument. But they’re far from the only professionals who use Macs.

A significant part of my engineering career has involved words and numbers, not advertising or movies. And the drawings done for the Neutral Mass Spectrometer (Curiosity, Mars) were done using Canvas draw which made it easy to combine schematics, mechanical drawings, and photos in each drawing as required. A thirty inch Dell display was crucial for seeing a B-size drawing full size. Clarity and reliability were more important than color gamut, but the engineers and results were no less ‘professional’ than media creators and their work product.

The primary (boot) screen for this engineering work was part of a 15.4" MacBook Pro with the infamous keyboard. The Mars mission has been more reliable than that model MBP.

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Well said, Adam. Always gave me a chuckle when I thought of how Apple and the broader “review”/YouTube community use the word “Pro” - I would usually relate “Pro” to one of the professions e.g. engineering, architecture, medicine and other fields which require specialized training and license to practice. Apple should broaden the definition of “Pro users”.

I think another area which can help make Apple devices more “Pro” is software. It would be nice if Apple makes more effort to support and market third-party apps e.g. DevonTHINK and Keyboard Maestro - these apps surely make the Mac experience vastly more productive, yet very few Windows users know of them - and probably color their impressions that “Macs are toys” (sorry, words from a friend). I showed these apps to some of my friends and colleagues; they became quite interested in using a Mac once they saw what Macs can do.

The iPadOS experience doesn’t help - the hardware is so powerful yet the software is so limited in what can be done. I am pretty sure Apple can improve iPadOS’s capabilities within the iPad paradigm (i.e. not forcing an iPad to be a Mac).

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Great article, Adam, and topic that deserves attention.

This sounds like a Mac version of the Raspberry Pi 400 (though that lacks the built-in trackpad, using a separate mouse instead), which I think would be both useful and a really fun Mac. I could see it being popular outside of just the ‘professional’ market.

As far as what Apple can do to better support us ‘other professionals’, there are really two issues I’d like to see addressed:

  • More ports on non-Pro machines – I’ve used a PowerBook/MacBook as my primary or only computer for 20+ years now. For most of that time I’ve had to buy a ‘professional’ model, but not because of performance needs. Instead it’s because I regularly need more than one or two USB ports. When the MacBook Air first came out, I couldn’t consider it because it only had a single USB port (and no FireWire), so I was stuck buying a MacBook Pro. Once the Air gained a second USB port, a Thunderbolt port, and SD card reader, I happily switched to it from the MacBook Pro, and it became my longest-serving Mac ever (8 years I think). But now I’m back to needing to buy a ‘Pro’ model even though the performance of the ‘normal’ M1 MacBooks is more than sufficient for me. The one thing that became problematic over the lifetime of the MacBook Air was storage space, which leads me to my second improvement I’d like to see…
  • Easily expandable storage – This is something that I think would also benefit the customers Apple is already targeting with ‘Pro’ Macs. I’m not talking about returning to being able to swap out SSDs. That ship has sailed for a variety of reasons, and I’m ok with that. I’m talking about having a way to easily supplement the built-in storage, so that if you outgrow what’s in your MacBook, you don’t have to get a whole new computer. At a very basic level, this can be achieved with an SD card slot (and I did that for a while on my MacBook Air, with a 256GB SD card). But again, these are only available on ‘Pro’ Macs now. And the performance isn’t great. I don’t know much about the standards in this area, but I’d love to see Apple provide a high-performance SD slot either using a better standard, or something they develop that others can use (and can also support standard SD cards). However they do it, they should make decent performance storage expansion one of the ‘official’ purposes of the port, include it in all MacBooks, and hopefully that will spur a market for products like the JetDrive Lite expansion cards.

Someone needs to come up with a professional approach to power management. Multiple wall warts for network gear, external drives and hubs is simply foolish. The USB-C/thunderbolt bus can certainly supply enough power for all of this. But it would need a pretty robust implementation. I have 4 drives, 4 pieces of network gear, 1 hub and 1 extra screen in addition to the Mac. That’s 9 wall warts and 2 plugs - so I need 2 battery back up systems. Thank goodness USB charging is available for devices, cameras and everything from speakers to bike lights. More internal storage options would help, but that would really only reduce this foot print by about 1/3. I don’t think that all the folks who work from home are planning to have a hardware room to house their network and storage gear.

I don’t want to be disruptive, but it seems the you would benefit from entering the magical world of PC, where you can get absolutely anything you want. From performance to ergonomics and beyond. You can customize water cooling system, lights all over the hardware, fancy keyboards and monitors… I mean really anything. And the performance can leave all those specs eating dust. The only thing you will miss is the locked ecossistem, which in my opinion is more like a jail than a safety net. You see, I am really sorry to bring your attention to this detail, but you are not a “Pro” user. You are a regular user. Why? Because you could work with a pen and a paper. And you would be able to deliver. I am a video editor, so I cannot rely over anything else than a good, steady, powerful computer. And yet, suprise, suprise, I own a PC and I can also deliver using it. My M1 MacMini is just a tool for converting and processing those Apple-only-files (because, well… clients) and save some time. Now, Apple could hear you? No. Why? Because they have a brand position. They work for rich people that look for status (aka Americans). This is mandatory. They won’t make products for the average corner shop in Brazil, or else it will bring down all the fantasy the have builted in 60+ years. That is the Microsoft world of Pepsi. They don’t want to ever be in the position of hearing a waiter saing “can I serve you a MacBook instead?” And that is why the company is where it is. However, all things considered, I agree with all your demands.

@jzw I’m confused – you’re identifying as a professional but don’t want to buy pro machines?

@mateusribeiro I am a video editor, so I cannot rely over anything else than a good, steady, powerful computer.

Well, if you’re consigning us to paper and pen, then we can certainly insist you use pre-computer video editing tools.

Josh even mentioned that in editing, but since it didn’t have a trackpad, I decided not to muddy my combination device point by mentioning it. But yes, I think we’re getting to the point where the guts of a full-fledged computer could be built into a keyboard or attached to the back of a display.

I also had a section on this that I ended up cutting in editing because Apple did improve the port situation in the latest MacBook Pros, so it seems that Apple might finally be moving back into that direction.

The larger point that your comment reveals is this question of whether a “pro” Mac has to combine all of the “pro” features in one, or if some of them should be distributed more widely throughout the product line. I’d argue for the latter, of course, since the Pro Display XDR is a pretty good example of the “pro” product that’s is highly adjustable and even rotates from landscape to portrait (though its port accessibility is still weak) but is still inappropriate for most professionals.

Now there’s an interesting idea I hadn’t previously considered, and yes, I think enabling products like JetDrive Lite would be a boon.

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So. much. this.

An elegant synthesis of everything I and the Mac-using colleagues, friends, and family members that I support all think. I hope you’re still on Apple’s radar, @ace!

Of course there are hordes of different kinds of professionals that use Macs. But targeting stratospherically high end production, artists and media people is a market that’s not currently being addressed by other manufacturers. It’s a very small market, but one that would be highly profitable.

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Right, no one disagrees. Apple targets that market currently. The entire point of this article is that there are a lot of other professionals whose needs aren’t being met by Apple’s current product lines.

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You are right, I was not clear in my first statement. Let me try to clarify my thought. I believe that the word “pro” does not mean the same thing as “professional”, as one could deduce. Everyone is a professional. My mother is a music teacher and she needs a good computer. Even before online classes, covid, etc. In fact there are few trades nowadays that can be solely analogic. My point is, if you are not working with 3D rendering or HDR color correction, why would you need a 5K retina screen? I work with Adobe Premiere and my 4K monitor is absolutely fine for me. I have an excelent “PRO” machine running Windows. For way less. So if you want Apple to became an expensive Banana, why won’t you buy an awesome Banana for less? Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to reduce writers to paper and pen, you guys surely make way more money than I do, because you sell ideas, not files. I sell most of the time processed files. So I cannot use 35mm film (which by the way has an astonishing quality) because my clientes (Netflix, Amazon, iTunes) won’t accep anyhthing other than ProRes 422 HQ footage.

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Because I stare at text all day, every day. I have a 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina screen and a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display next to it, and the quality difference is obvious and constantly annoying. I’ve used 4K displays and they’re certainly better than the Thunderbolt Display, but not as good as the 5K display. It’s partly an ergonomics and eyestrain issue, but it also plays out in accuracy. For a while, my wife was working in a job where people had standard mediocre PC monitors. Partly because of the fuzziness of the text, they tended to make more mistakes and fail to catch them because they weren’t as easily seen on screen. Cornell vs Connell vs Corneil, for instance.

On the same grounds, switching to a PC with Windows isn’t an option—hardware is the easy part, in fact; software is what matters. I have decades of experience with macOS and Mac apps, and I’m vastly more fluid and productive on a Mac than I would be on a PC. That might not be true for you, but I can guarantee it is for long-time Mac professionals.

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