Apple has made a series of well-publicized stumbles with the Macintosh in the last several years, and it has jeopardized the Mac's momentum with professionals.
Nevertheless, it still has the opportunity to right the ship and keep plenty of its customers in the fold. Here's what Apple can do to win back the loyalty of the people who continue to use its computers to get work done.
The Mac has suffered from a lot of neglect. For example, while the iPhone gets refreshed yearly, the Mac Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac have gone 2 to 3 years—and sometimes even longer—between product refreshes.
The Mac has also suffered from Apple trying to get too cute with its product design. While the Mac Pro is an impressive looking machine and the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro is a unique innovation, both sacrifice function for form.
For Apple to win back professionals to the platform, it needs to commit to more regular upgrades, and it needs to commit to at least bi-yearly upgrades, and it needs to put functional design at the heart of the product line.
Let's take a quick look at what that would mean for each of the four Mac product lines.
1. MacBook Pro
The best part about the Touch Bar is actually the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Apple should offer a version of the product with Touch ID, but keep the physical function keys. Another big innovation that it could bring to the MacBook Pro is wireless broadband, so that professionals can keep working when out of Wi-Fi range. This is the one key feature that leads a lot of professionals to the iPad—adding it to the MacBook Pro would be a nice win. Finally, bring back the MagSafe connector. Apple could simply include a USB-C magnetic dongle, or it could include a magnetic USB-C cable like the third-party Griffin BreakSafe.
As cool as the Mac Pro looks, it's utterly impractical. Apple needs to just bring back a fully functional, industrial strength Macintosh tower with solid design, easy upgradeability, and all the ports that professionals need to attach high-speed storage, big monitors, Wacom tablets, cameras, video rigs, sound boards, and other multimedia accessories.
Lots of professionals still buy iMacs as well. These are the machines that companies love to put at reception desks and in public areas and creative pros love to show off because they look great sitting on a desk. But, they need to remain functional and powerful so that people can use them to get work done, and the product will have a reasonable lifecycle of at least 3-4 years. Apple just needs to make sure the iMacs have adequate cooling, upgradeable RAM, plenty of expansion ports, and a full size keyboard.
4. Mac Mini
Not as flashy as the iMac, the Mac Mini is important because it enables professionals and companies that prefer Macs to have a low-cost option for workers or functions that don't need a high-cost desktop, laptop, or all-in-one. They're also great for kiosks and to run TV screens in the corporate office. The key here is for Apple to give the Mac Mini plenty of power and expansion ports while keeping the cost as low as possible and refreshing the hardware every couple years.
One more thing...
One last thing Apple could do to attract professionals back into the Mac fold: offer a new version of its Cinema Display—a great product that hasn't been updated since 2011.
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Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.