Apple Mac Unit Reportedly Plagued By Lack Of Direction, Inner Strife And iPhone Favoritism

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When it comes to questions swirling around Apple’s Mac division, there’s the corporate speak, and then there’s the commentary from the folks down in the trenches deep within Apple. Earlier today, we heard from Apple CEO Tim Cook that users need not be worried about the direction of the Mac.

"Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we're committed to desktops,” said Cool in a post to Apple’s employee message board. “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.”

However, a new report from heavy-hitting Apple insider Mark Gurman details more troubling concerns within the Mac division. Critically, Gurman’s sources indicate that the Mac has lost the attention of famed Apple designer Jony Ive and members of the company’s software team in favor of devices based on iOS. Although a shift in resources can be expected given that Macs account for about 10 percent of Apple’s revenue compared to 75 percent for the iPhone, it has resulted in “a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers,” according to Gurman.

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This lack of clear direction can partially explain the languid pace of updates to the Mac lineup. The 2016 MacBook Pro refresh was long overdue (and still didn’t appease many loyalists), while the iMac family has been withering on the vine for over a year without any meaningful updates. Then there’s the Mac Pro, which hasn’t been updated in over three years.

Gurman also points to an issue that was discovered in the battery packs that Apple originally sought to include in its new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros. Apple allegedly wanted to include a new type of battery that would have dramatically increased runtimes, but they “failed a key test”, which meant that underperforming, lower-capacity batteries were included instead. Remember all the complaints about the lower-capacity batteries compared to their predecessors?

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Apple reportedly made this move to avoid missing the critical Christmas shopping season, but it had a negative effect on the rest of the company’s Mac products. “The change required roping in engineers from other teams to finish the job, meaning work on other Macs languished,” reports Gurman. The red-headed stepchild status of the Mac continues, with Gurman adding, “Apple re-organized its software engineering department so there's no longer a dedicated Mac operating system team. There is now just one team, and most of the engineers are iOS first, giving the people working on the iPhone and iPad more power.”

The Bloomberg report goes on add that Apple had originally wanted to include a Lightning port for connectivity and charging on the 12-inch MacBook, but instead wisely settled on the more widely accepted USB-C port. Apple also toyed with the idea of adding a Gold color option to the new MacBook Pro family, but decided that the color wouldn’t look good on such large laptops (the 2016 MacBook Pros are available in Silver and Space Grey). And while Apple engineers had strongly pushed to add a second USB-C port for the 2016 refresh of the 12-inch MacBook (to nullify one of the most criticized aspects of the device), it instead received minor speeds bumps and a new color: Rose Gold.

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In the end, this reads like a tale of two Apples. While Cook is trying to put on a brave face concerning the importance of Macs to the company (and in turn, the professionals that have for years relied on the computers), the troops on the ground are indicating that things aren’t nearly as rosy.

The true test, it seems, will be to see what Apple actually delivers in 2017. Will the Mac Pro finally get an update? Will the iMac gain Thunderbolt 3 support, top-of-the line AMD Vega-based graphics, Kaby Lake and perhaps a more modern storage subsystem? Let the leaks commence!