Five Years Ago Today, Apple's Uncharacteristic Apology Set the Stage for the Mac's Renaissance

Five years ago, the Mac lineup was in a bad state. Over three years had passed since Apple redesigned the Mac Pro with a sleek but constrained "trash can" enclosure, while the iMac, MacBook Air, and Mac mini had also gone years without updates.

apple mac roundtable
A snapshot of the MacRumors Buyer's Guide from April 4, 2017:

macrumors buyers guide 2017
At the time, some users began to question whether Apple was still committed to the Mac, especially at the high end of the market.

The criticism ultimately led Apple to hold a meeting with a small group of reporters, where it apologized to pro Mac users and ensured that it remained committed to the Mac. In a rare and surprising move, Apple also pre-announced it was working on a "completely rethought" Mac Pro with a modular design, a new pro-level iMac, and a new pro display.

The meeting, which was disclosed to the public five years ago today, involved Apple's former marketing chief Phil Schiller, software engineering chief Craig Federighi, and then-VP, now-SVP of hardware engineering John Ternus. One of the reporters in the room was John Gruber, and the quotes that follow are from his Daring Fireball coverage.

Schiller's apology to Mac Pro users:

The current Mac Pro, as we've said a few times, was constrained thermally and it restricted our ability to upgrade it. And for that, we're sorry to disappoint customers who wanted that, and we've asked the team to go and re-architect and design something great for the future that those Mac Pro customers who want more expandability, more upgradability in the future. It'll meet more of those needs.

Federighi's admission that Apple had designed itself into a "thermal corner":

I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped.

Schiller ensuring that Apple remains committed to the Mac:

We're committed to the Mac, we've got great talent on the Mac, both hardware and software, we've got great products planned for the future, and as far as our horizon line can see, the Mac is a core component of the things Apple delivers, including to our pro customers.

To say that Apple delivered on its promise is an understatement. Not only did Apple release the modular Mac Pro and the since-discontinued iMac Pro, but it also finally ditched the problematic butterfly keyboard on MacBooks, announced its game-changing transition to Apple silicon, brought back a wide array of ports on the latest MacBook Pro models, gave customers an entirely new option in the Mac Studio, and more.

Apple's roundtable discussion with reporters will forever be a turning point in the Mac's history.

Top Rated Comments

A_Hunger_Artist Avatar
8 weeks ago
And that was when Jony Ive started packing up his desk...

In all seriousness it's incredible how good the state of the Mac is currently. Every single computer is just incredible - even the mini is a powerhouse right now.
Score: 76 Votes (Like | Disagree)
UltimateSyn Avatar
8 weeks ago
The Mac is in an incredible place now, and it’s only getting better. Awesome to see them deliver on those promises.
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
clevins Avatar
8 weeks ago

For consumers the Mac lineup is in a very bad state right now. The current iMac is too small and aesthetically a absolute no go. That leaves only the very lacklustre Mac Mini and MacBook Air.
Here's your Attention Cookie. Happy?

It's idiotic to call the M1 Mini and Air 'lackluster'. They may or may not meet your needs but neither you nor any other single person speak for anyone aside from yourselves.
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple Knowledge Navigator Avatar
8 weeks ago
This, and the fact that Jony Ive has parted.

People can complain all the want but the current crop of Macs are substantially more focused on function over form. And I don’t care how boring the Mac Studio looks - the fact that half of it is decimated to cooling and it runs at less than 50 degrees under most loads says it all.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ashdelacroix Avatar
8 weeks ago

And that was when Jony Ive started packing up his desk...

In all seriousness it's incredible how good the state of the Mac is currently. Every single computer is just incredible - even the mini is a powerhouse right now.
I think everything Apple is today owes so, so much to Jony Ive. He was still designing away in a forgotten corner of Apple when Steve Jobs came back and Jobs recognised Ive's sheer talent. But yes, a whole generation of amazing category-busting products under Ive's team was giving way to a generation of iterative products (largely) and making things thinner or with fewer ports (those things go together) that were indeed driving Apple into a corner where perfectionism was trumping practicality.

It was right to break out of that to some extent.

However, what Ive helped to push is Apple's incredible ability to fit so much into amazing compact designs and to ingeniously engineer solutions such as fitting a power brick and high-quality audio inside the new Mac Studio Display's thin frame. Look at the Mac Studio itself, for example, and the power of that in such a small footprint. That design didn't just land randomly one day on Apple Campus: it came out of a culture and a skillset and an ambition set by people working on the first iMacs and iPods way back when. No company has yet to catch up with the design language and verve developed by Jobs and Ive.

I think a huge amount of Apple's capability and its inventiveness and its ambition is down to Ive and his department, spurred on by his greatest "customer" and critic: Steve Jobs himself. We cannot criticise Ive for giving Apple such an incredible platform to build on. And I can't wait to fire up my new Mac Studio!
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
uller6 Avatar
8 weeks ago

For consumers the Mac lineup is in a very bad state right now. The current iMac is too small and aesthetically a absolute no go. That leaves only the very lacklustre Mac Mini and MacBook Air.
I'm not sure what you're talking about? I have an M1 iMac, which I love, and a 13" M1 pro, which I also love. They're fast as (*^#! And I love the look of the M1 iMac. As a "regular consumer" - i.e. I don't do video editing - in my opinion these are the best Macs ever made.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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