Mac Pro MMXIII: The Uncomfortable Lightness of Being

Apple has always been an organization with a point of view, an organization with a philosophy about the products that they produce and the experiences that those products impart. With the previewed design of the new Mac Pro I believe that there is one guiding philosophical approach at worklightness.

Lightness has long been a hardware pursuit at Apple, with each generation doing more with less, more simply, and more intuitively. Each generation of device has been lightened and focused, extraneous and outdated elements purged, unnecessary details eliminated. iPod leads to iPod Mini leads to iPod Nano. Accessible battery with meter (button and LED's) leads to sealed battery with meter leads to sealed battery without meter.

Each change moves a step closer toward the ideal device, the device that recedes and integrates, leaving only it's essential function. At first these changes are uncomfortable—progress generally is.

Nowhere is this philosophy more apparent, and more polarizing, than in the design of the new Mac Pro. The product is an answer to a question that no one asked; how do you make a powerful workstation as small as possible? And more importantly, why make a workstation as small as possible.

Even in a desktop computer, there are tangible benefits to reduced size; reduced expansion leads to reduced product size leads to reduced material costs, reduced packaging size, reduced warehousing and distribution costs, and reduced environmental impact—doing more with less.

But these reductions require trade-offs, trade-offs that to many users will not make practical sense at first, and to some will never make sense. But in the relentless pursuit of lightness these trade-offs seem obvious, even inevitable.

Time will tell if these trade offs are prescient, overly ambitious, or a misstep (this is certainly Apple's lowest risk product line with which to experiment). But as history has proven, the most influential products are often answers to questions that no one asked.

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