Requiem for the iMac Pro, the ultimate Mac of the Intel era

Maybe someday there will be a tell-all book written by someone inside Apple during the 2010s. Maybe we will eventually know exactly what happened that led to a bit of a lost decade for the Mac, one that will be remembered for a failed attempt to rethink the Mac Pro and a series of questionable hardware decisions that hobbled Mac laptops for years.

But until then, we’re mostly left to speculate about what happened—and how Apple turned it around, ushering in a new decade that’s got the potential to reinvigorate the Mac in a way not seen since the early days of Steve Jobs’s return to Apple.

But in my opinion, there’s a single Mac model that tells a good portion of the story all on its own. It’s a Mac that was a remarkably good computer on its own, but also one that represented an approach to the Mac that Apple itself would end up repudiating.

Pour one out for one of the best Macs of the 2010s, and perhaps the one that best represents that confused decade. The iMac Pro is dead—but it lived fast and left an exquisite corpse.

Where do we go from here?

In late 2013 Apple released a new, cylindrical Mac Pro that broke ground in terms of design—but ended up making some guesses about the growth of high-end computer hardware that were ultimately proven wrong. The design wasn’t capable of cooling the high-performance processors and GPUs that Apple’s professional users wanted, and its lack of traditional internal storage bays meant that many pro users passed it by.

Apple was left with a choice to make. And if you ask me, the fate of the Mac as we know it hung in the balance. There were two paths laid out before Apple. On one path, Apple would decide to keep the Mac around and keep it in sync with iOS as much as possible, but not exert any extra effort to make it more than what it was.

Yes, this would probably have been the kiss of death for the Mac as a platform—eventually. But it would also have been an admission that the greatest appeal of the Mac—and, let’s be honest, of all traditional “personal computer” platforms—is that they use familiar software and offer well-worn user-interface concepts. If people use the Mac because it’s got…