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Apple and the Pro fixation…3 BIG letters…

Pro this and Pro that…but what does it all mean?

Apple M1 Max MacBook Pro

Apple loves to have categories and places for everything – there are the so-called consumer-level Macs and devices and then the time-honoured Pro machines. But what does Pro represent?

At the latest event, the Scary Fast Event Apple resigned the much-maligned 13-inch MacBook Pro to the bin. That Mac had received so much criticism for still being in the lineup, that I think Apple almost conceded defeat over it.

Apple’s meaning of Pro

Pro is a suffix that is associated more with Apple than possibly any other company and they’ve used it extensively over the years.

I’m just going through it in my head as I write this story – I think that currently, Apple has the Mac Pro (the pro-est Mac of all), the MacBook Pro, an iPad Pro, AirPods Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro Max – which by the way also has the A17 Pro chip inside it. That’s a pretty liberal sprinkling of Apple’s favourite term right?

We know that Apple is the master of marketing and creating a lust and need for something we didn’t know we wanted and possibly even needed. Apart from being a leading tech company, Apple is also a lifestyle company and the use of the Pro name plays into that.

When buying a new Apple device with the Pro moniker on it we unwittingly perceive ourselves as being slightly more important – being a pro, even if it’s in our imagination, almost excuses us for buying a better, more spec’d model – whether or not we need it!

Bye bye touch bar

Many have questioned why Apple kept that 13-inch model hanging around for so long.

Although there is no official reason given, I’d be keen to suggest that the sluggish Mac served its purpose by being the cheapest route to owning a MacBook Pro. That Mac was bagged by corporate buyers who were not necessarily looking closely at specs or performance but were blinded by the name Pro – well that and the price.

How could those buyers turn around to their bosses and justify that their teams – professional teams were using MacBook Airs – a little colourful plaything? Even though you and I know that the MacBook Air was probably the better purchase – being a mighty wolf in pretty sheep’s clothing.

I’m certain Apple knew that the old 13-inch Mac was barely worthy of the Pro name – but it ticked boxes and made Apple good money at very good margins.

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Why break the mould

So the 13-inch MacBook Pro served its purpose and although that model is now history, the model that’s replaced it isn’t all that much better.

Once again, governed by price and the need to have a Mac for everyone at every price point Apple is offering you entry to the Pro league for only £1699 – cool, but let’s dig a little deeper…

If we compare that base entry-level MacBook Pro to the cheaper 15-inch MacBook Air you have to wonder where the differences lay.

Okay – the obvious one is the Pro is now M3 Apple silicon and the Air ‘only’ has the M2 chip. But the specs are remarkably similar – both have 8-core CPUs with the same amount of performance & efficiency cores and have 10-core GPUs and they share the Neural engine and the same memory bandwidth too.

The same is true when you look at the Media engines, cameras and speakers. The only improvements I can pick out are that you get accelerated ray tracing, a brighter XDR panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, a few extra ports and the newer Wi-Fi 6E if you plump for the MacBook Pro over the MacBook Air.

There is an ongoing debate that lingers on about whether any Mac bearing the name Pro should only have 8 GB of unified memory – but if we price-check those two Macs I’ve been comparing the larger MacBook Air with the same 512 GB of storage costs £100 less. I guess it depends on how much the Pro name means to you and how deep your pockets are.

Listen here…

I mentioned AirPods Pro – and here the Pro name becomes more confusing because higher up the pecking order are the mighty AirPods Max – so what are we to make of that then?

Well, the AirPods do have Conversation Awareness and Adaptive Audio thanks to having the newer H2 chip but the AirPod Max has 20 hours of battery life compared to 6 hours for the Pros.

Apple’s iPad range is mighty confusing as I think we all know and while you could go and lavish your money on an iPad Pro for many the 10.9-inch iPad Air would do the job with a massive saving of £200.

What’s a pro anyway?

In my simplistic mind, a pro means you’re getting paid. If your Mac earns you money then you’re a pro – but even then you don’t need to have the Pro name added to your Mac to make you a pro.

I am writing today’s story on the MacBook Air which is hooked up to the Studio Display – by definition not a pro-set-up, but it’s getting the job done and that’s what matters.

Last week I spent much of the time on my latest iMac – the 24-inch M3 iMac – again it doesn’t bear the name pro yet I was writing on it, doing basic video edits on it and working in Photoshop on it as well – the work I do to earn a living and it carried out the tasks quickly, quietly and efficiently.

A few years back we had the iMac Pro and anyone lucky enough to use one raved about it. Before the advent of Apple silicon and the Mac Studio, the iMac Pro was the closest most of us could get to the revered Mac Pro. Back in those days the pro name tag probably meant more – but now…

And this is what I meant earlier – Apple is a lifestyle company every bit as much as a tech company. We’ve seen their events where they have videos of creatives busy editing music or video editing.

Although it’s implicit rather than explicit we all know that in our mind that is our vision and definition of a professional and Apple panders to our weaknesses – unsurprisingly we want to see ourselves as professionals and the best.

The name lives on

Apple probably only rivals the use of the term Pro by the use of their other favourite prefix – Magic.

But in the case of Pro, Apple is aware they are building and creating an illusion of being the best – being at the top of your game and they know we are willing to pay good money for our egos to be stroked.

I’ve shown today though that now we are living in the era of Apple silicon buying a ‘pro’ machine is less and less needed. Apple silicon is so competent that most of us – even those of us lucky enough to earn money with our Macs don’t need a MacPro or MacBook Pro. For most, a well-spec’d MacBook Air will be more than good enough.

Clearly, it’s up to you if you want that Pro name hanging off the end of your MacBook – but the Mac Studio Max ain’t no Pro by name and yet has more grunt than any of us will probably ever get close to using.

I’ve said it before – when Apple silicon was launched everything changed and that includes what Mac you need to make money with and be a professional. The Pro ranges will live on as Apple still wants to create that distinction between Macs, iPads of iPhones – but as to whether it is still a genuine demarcation – well…I’ll leave you to ponder on that.

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