Ben Szymanski

Software Engineer • Vlogging about efoils, tech and music • 🇺🇸 & 🐊

At the stroke of midnight, January 1st 2019, I wasn't planning on 2019 being the last year I would be a Mac user (personally, at home). There's been a lot of despondency amongst loyal Mac users in the last five years or so, and recently it came to a blistering wildfire across Twitter, MacRumors and HackerNews, with members of this “community” bickering with each other over the intended audience of the extremely pricey 2019 Mac Pro. Even though I have no plans to buy a Mac Pro, these events are influencing - and cementing(!) my decision to move off the Mac platform.

Mac Pro and Pro Display

We've got three positions on the new Mac Pro.

  1. One subset of Mac users long for the PowerMac days of the early 2000’s and feel ignored by Apple. This new Mac Pro is proof of that.
  2. Another subset justifies the situation and says that the new Mac Pro’s are priced competitively with offerings from Dell and HP. This subset patronizes the former subset by telling them that they are not the target audience for this machine.
  3. The third subset are the Hollywood studios who just buy the damn thing and couldn't care less if Apple jacked the base price up to $10k because they're making so much money from Frozen 2 merch it really doesn't matter.

Let’s rewind for a sec and look at how we got here. * In the late 90’s through early 2000’s, one could pick up an expandable PowerMac for a sub-$2000 price tag, usually starting at $1599. * In the mid-2000’s, the base models of the Mac Pro (the PowerMac’s successor) jumped to $2.5k. * In 2013, Apple radically redesigned the Mac Pro with video editors and audio producers in mind, priced the box at $3k and left it sit for six years. * Finally, in December 2019, Apple released a successor to the 2013 Mac Pro with a starting price of $6k. If you didn't already guess, this was controversial.

  • However, there are alternatives to the Mac Pro for those unwilling to pay that much of a premium for a computer.

photo of iMac

First you’ve got the iMac, a sealed all-in-one Mac desktop computer. These systems actually offer pretty good performance and a great monitor at a decent price. They also come with the caveat that they are barely upgradable (some models are not upgradable at all). The specs you buy at the factory are the specs you’re stuck with until you offload it. The all-in-one sealed machine concept also means that you’re buying a whole new monitor every time you upgrade to a newer model. It also means that any hardware problems are definitely not user-serviceable.

photo of mac mini

Next you’ve got the Mac mini, a headless, low-end computer that’s also mostly sealed. After languishing for years, the Mac mini got a decent spec bump in 2018 (along with a price bump). The only thing you can upgrade on these machines is the RAM, a process that will void your warranty. These machines don’t have the monitor problem, but they do have the problem of not offering a discrete GPU option, so customers are bound to lower performance integrated graphics performance.

I’ll admit, I’m typing this text on a 2018 Mac mini, but it won’t be for long?

The Mac platform just isn’t fun anymore. The hardware is pricey, limited in configuration options, locked down and the GUI has been stripped of all its life and whimsy.

I have started considering the possibility that commercial desktop operating systems are not long for this world. I started thinking about this back around 2015. Microsoft has very publicly committed to a “mobile first, cloud first” strategy. Windows as a desktop OS is neither. Apple has publicly stated in the past that the iPad is their most “perfect vision of computing.” The iPad does not run macOS.

It comes to a point where I’m asking myself, “Why am I putting up with these limited options? This isn’t fun. I’m not having fun. Fighting with other Mac users isn’t fun. It doesn't have to be this way.” Worse, none of this is constructive and the bickering is a complete waste of time and human energy. So I’m leaving.

Scene from Jurassic Park control room

Computing should be fun.

Many of us were inspired at an early age by computers and technology and have turned that into both a life-long passion and a career. For me, seeing computers (often Macs!) in movies was very inspirational… the SCADA controls and systems in Jurassic Park, for example. Also seeing a cursor move around the Windows 95 desktop, clicking buttons and observing the result was mind-blowing for a five-year-old.

I’m setting out to rediscover this feeling. I have a rough path mapped out, and I’m going to reveal it to you in the coming weeks in a series of blog posts. Stay tuned!

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