In a question-and-answer session on Apple’s internal employee network on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked a simple question about the Mac, Apple’s line of desktops, according to a transcript obtained by TechCrunch.
Cook was asked by an Apple employee:
“We had a big MacBook Pro launch in October and a powerful upgrade to the MacBook back in the spring. Are Mac desktops strategic for us?”
His answer was more revealing for what it left out than what it said. Cook wrote:
“The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.
The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.
Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.”
Note that Cook never says “Mac,” the name of Apple’s oldest product line. He does mention desktop computers several times, but never the name of Apple’s desktop software, except for one mention of an existing computer (the Retina iMac, which hasn’t been updated with new components in over a year.)
Basically, Cook was asked if Mac desktops are strategic and he answered that desktops were strategic. In the past, Cook would answer similar questions with quips like “I love the Mac.“
It’s not a big stretch to between the lines and see that to Cook and Apple, Macs and desktops are no longer synonymous. Parsing Cook’s answer more closely, he almost seems to be hinting at a desktop running different software than macOS — perhaps Apple’s iPhone software, iOS.
‘Can’t innovate more, my a–‘
A Tuesday report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman might explain why Cook answered the way he did.
Gurman says that Apple has reorganized its software engineering so that there is no more dedicated Mac operating system team. Instead, engineers work on both iOS and macOS, as the Mac has been generally deprioritized in the company, according to the report.
This integration has led to some cool stuff, like the new Touch Bar, a touchscreen integrated into the new MacBook Pro keyboard. The Touch Bar is essentially an embedded iOS device inside of a Mac.
In fact, Mac engineers no longer get as much attention from Apple’s industrial design team, which was led by Apple design chief Jony Ive until last year. The design team now spends more time working on iPhones and iPads, according to the report.
This overall deprioritization has led to “more than a dozen” engineers leaving the team for other Apple departments or companies, according to Bloomberg.
And Apple has had upgrades to its Mac laptops and desktops that weren’t ultimately released, such as a skinny MacBook with a fingerprint sensor and a laptop that uses an iPhone charger.
Apple’s flagship desktop, the Mac Pro, beloved by software engineers, was launched in 2013, and Apple’s head marketer, Phil Schiller, revealed it with the cocky quip “can’t innovate more, my arse.”
But in 2016, the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated with new chips in three years, meaning that Apple’s most powerful desktop is firmly out of date, which is a dealbreaker for most people who need power — the Mac Pro’s core market.
Bloomberg reports that Apple has been considering moving production of the product from Texas to Asia, where the rest of its products are assembled.
Still, Cook was clear in his note to his troops: “We have great desktops in our roadmap.” He just didn’t say anything about whether they were going to be Macs.