Credit: Louis Berger
“The what?” many of you might say. “I
haven’t heard that name in a long time…” others may be thinking. The
xMac has been a general term, for many years now, for a future Apple product
that will combine some of the aspects
of the Mac Pro with more consumer-friendly Macs to create a versatile
computer solution that could attract more people to the Apple desktop world.
That hasn’t happened yet. But with the latest 2019 Mac Pro, there’s a new opportunity for an xMac device soon, and now is an excellent time to bring it to market. Here’s why we think 2020 could finally be the year we see an xMac device appear.
The xMac Fills an Important Market Niche
One of the biggest reasons that conversations about the xMac persist is that there’s a market niche for the computer that Apple isn’t really filling. This empty pocket became even more obvious with the release of the immensely upgradeable and powerful Mac Pro 2019, which can reach prices beyond $50,000 for businesses that want the best of the best (not to mention the ridiculously priced 6K Retina display). But that also left a lot of individual buyers wondering, “I like some of the things this new Mac Pro does, but these prices leave us totally out of the conversation.”
There’s the Mac mini, of course, but the mini is a good example of what these Mac Pro fans don’t want. It’s portable, not especially powerful, and difficult or impossible to upgrade. What’s missing is a system in between, a Mac that has some of the advantages of the Pro while being priced for the average consumer.
Modular Is (Probably) the Future
Apple’s successful consumer Macs are all-in-one machines or compact solutions like the mini, and this needs to change. The future of computer desktops is, increasingly, modular. Even in the beginning, modular properties and upgradability were key expectations for the longed-after xMac. This was because fans knew that these features were in high demand and that demand has remained.
The Mac Pro does this really well. You can take out and replace nearly any part for massive upgrades or changes, depending on the exact kind of machine you need. Surely such design features could be incorporated in a smaller consumer computer without price tags following? Other brands are also focusing more on modularity (look for it to become more common in smartphones), because it’s essentially customer service: You don’t have to buy a new device every few years, but you do need to purchase less expensive upgrade components for speed boosts, better processors, more storage, and so on.
This model may seem counter intuitive to Apple’s consumer product strategy, but the company has no problem doing it for the professional Mac Pro. It’s time to bring the same strategy to consumers, and the xMac will be the beginning. That means it could also signal the death of the iMac, which could be why Apple has stayed away from an xMac thus far.
It Could Be Apple’s Gaming Machine
Even if you overcome platform and accessory difficulties, Apple computers don’t make great gaming machines. And the reason, once again, is often lack of upgradeable features and modularity. Gamers want the ability to guarantee enough power to run demanding games, along with options to increase hardware as necessary, improve cooling systems, and generally modify their computers as needed to get the gaming rig they want. Macs just don’t let you do this by design.
The xMac, on the other hand, would be made explicitly for such upgrades, and give Apple a chance to market it as a “gaming Mac.” You can be sure this is a market Apple would love to appeal to if possible, especially with the tie-ins to Apple Arcade that are now possible (and the more demanding games that Arcade could then sell). This synergy, in particular, could make the xMac a valuable release in 2020 or at least the new few years.
Another “Headless” Mac Could Bring More Focus to Apple Displays
The xMac would almost certainly be a headless Mac without a monitor, like the mini (otherwise, there’s not much point). And this is another plus for Apple right now, because the company would love to sell more of its own displays, and possibly even bring some new displays to market if the demand is high enough. This could also lead to Apple offering OLED displays and other upgrades that would be very welcome among Apple fans. This sort of product bundling is what tech companies love to see, and another way the xMac could be used if it’s finally released this year. Fingers crossed!