Will the revamped versions of 3 Mac products be enough to keep professionals loyal to the brand?

On the heels of the Apple event, Jason Hiner takes a closer look at the upgraded MacBook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro.

Will the revamped versions of 3 Mac products be enough to keep professionals loyal to the brand?

Apple wrapped up its iPad and Mac event, announcing updates to three of it's most popular products. With so many people tied to their computers, I spoke with Jason Hiner about whether or not the Mac upgrades will win over professionals. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Jason Hiner: So, Apple announced three products today. An upgrade to the MacBook Air, very popular among business professionals. The Mac Mini, which they haven't updated in a long time, and then the iPad Pro, which Apple's trying to pitch as a replacement for a lot of people for a Mac. Because for people that aren't necessarily creating video, or spreadsheets, or PowerPoints all the time, they feel like this device can do a lot of them, and they're pushing it more and more as a creative device, as well.

With that said, a lot of our readers, they're still very tied to their computers, and so they're much more interested in what the Mac upgrades have to offer. So, with the MacBook Air, they've taken that device, and they've shrunk it down a little bit. So, it's lighter, it's a little bit smaller. It's a little bit thinner. It also has a much nicer display. The internals are upgraded. It has a fingerprint sensor on it, which is nice, and you don't have to log in. And then, it also has the new USBC ports in there. So, it only has those two, so you have to have a lot of dongles if you want to connect to HDMI, or storage, or display, or anything like that, and it does still have a 3.5 inch headphone jack. One of the few products with the headphone jack. And then, the Mac Mini is really, looks just like the old one, only it's a little darker. Space gray instead of silver. But the internals are very much upgraded, and it has a lot of the ports that are missing on that laptop. So, no dongles needed. But it is a device that's meant to be like their very popular iMac product, but without the display. So, you can hook it up to any display you want. You can hook it up to multiple displays. So, it's a desktop product, and they've sort of pitched it in some interesting ways so that professionals can use it so that they can add to that to their laptop, and like, if they are making video, they can render all the video over on this device, on a Mac Mini. Or if they're compiling code, they can compile it over here. So, they've done a few interesting things to help professionals be more productive with that device too.

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Karen Roby: Yeah, a lot of options for them. And you were talking about the MacBook Air, Apple raised the price. Do you see that that's going to have any impact as far as people going out and buying them?

Jason Hiner: Yeah, so, 1199 is the starting price now. This was their one machine that was under $1000, and when you have so many less expensive machines, especially Chromebooks, that you can get a really good Chromebook for $500. You can get a decent one for $200. And so, if you're just making spreadsheets, if you're just surfing the web, it's a really good option to get a Chromebook now. And so, that price really raises the bar on who's going to want to get one of these machines. Now, professionals, or companies that are handing these out, they are still likely to make this their, probably, preferred machine over a Pro, or even the old kind of MacBook, which is $100 more expensive even than this MacBook Air. So, they are likely to be popular among professionals, popular among businesses that are buying these and handing them out to companies, but you have to think that this makes that, it shrinks the size of that market even more, because of moving the price tag that much higher.

Karen Roby: Right, absolutely. And the Mac Mini, of course, you were just talking about just a few minutes ago, it's been a long time since we've seen any updates to that one. Why do you think now? Why now the changes?

Jason Hiner: Yeah. So, it's been four years since they've updated that product, and they really have gotten accused from a lot of professionals of just not paying enough attention to the Mac market. And those Mac Minis, if your weren't buying a laptop, and you just needed a machine to put on someone's desktop, and so they left it there, or to use as a kiosk, people use them connected to big screens in their companies. People use them even in places like music, DJs will use them. Other places. So, without having a decent machine that was not modern, and didn't have the latest sort of power and strength that these machines have, people were looking at, well, I'm going to have to go with something else. So, they really needed to do this upgrade. They have also raised the price on this one though too. The base price was 499. Now, it's 799. But that's still pretty reasonable for what you're getting. They packed more power into this machine. It can go up to 64 gigabytes of RAM for example, same as the iMac. So, it's a powerful machine at that price. I think that they'll do well with professionals and companies with the new Mac Mini.

Karen Roby: All right, and so, with the products, and of course factoring in the price increases for some of these, has Apple, do you think, given professionals what they need to stay with Mac, to stay, have their allegiance there with Mac?

Jason Hiner: Yeah. It's a great question, because the one thing they didn't talk about is a new Mac Pro, so they're really high end machines for people like video editors, and photographers, a market that they have owned, you know, and other kinds of creative professionals, the market they have owned for a long time. And the last few years, they've made some missteps, and they haven't served this market very well. And so, it's hurt them in that a lot of those folks have moved to Window's machines, because there just wasn't a good Mac. The last Mac Pro was this thing that looked really cool, they call it the trashcan Mac, but it was not very functional. You couldn't upgrade it, you couldn't really do much with it. They didn't keep it updated very often. So, what they really need to do is make a really good traditional tower. Nice silver all aluminum tower like they did a few years ago. Make it upgradeable. Make it expandable so that professionals can use these machines, because otherwise, they really are migrating more to Window's machines out of necessity, because Apple just doesn't have a product they can use. They tried with the iMac Pro, which is super expensive. But a lot of these professionals, they want to use multiple monitors, they want to be able to upgrade the RAM, and the storage and other things, and Apple just hasn't given them a product that really fits their needs for a number of years. And so, they've got work to do there. We'll see in 2019, because this is likely the last Apple announcement for this year.

Karen Roby: For more on the Apple event and our cheat sheets on all three products, just check out TechRepublic, and don't forget to subscribe to our top stories of the day newsletter.

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