Apple Mac Studio is 22 years late

At the Macworld conference in July 1998, Jobs was going to introduce a new, unannounced Mac.

The audience in the audience was eager to see what changes the leader, who returned a year ago, could bring to a weakened Apple.

Jobs did not rush to introduce new products. Instead, he first told everyone that Apple was going to give up some products, because Apple needs to focus on the products that users really need.

Before that, there were 15 Mac product lines, each with so many products that Jobs spent three weeks trying to sort out the huge, bloated Mac family.

Jobs believes that the functional requirements of users can be simplified into two types: consumer-level and professional-level, and a 2×2 grid can be combined according to the needs of different scenarios on mobile and desktop.

The bloated Mac family was reduced to four categories: the newly released iMac, the Power Macintash, the iBook and the PowerBook released a year later.

Over the years, the Power Macintash, iBook, and PowerBook have been replaced by the now better-known Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, but it's not hard to see that the Mac family still follows the product line set by this "demand grid."

Including the subsequent birth of Mac mini and iMac Pro, they can also find their own clear positioning on it. Apple's insight into user needs has not been outdated.

At Apple's spring conference in March, Apple brought a new member of the Mac family, Mac Studio, along with Apple's current strongest self-developed chip M1 Ultra and Studio Display professional monitors.

From the point of view of product naming alone, Mac Studio is a brand new product line of the Mac family, but looking back on the history of Mac, you will find that the prototype of Mac Studio appeared as early as 22 years ago.

elegant desktop artwork

▲ Picture from: Macworld

With a square shape of 7.7 inches in length and width, and a silver-white aluminum alloy body, this is not Apple's latest Mac Studio, but the Power Mac G4 Cube born in 2000.

Put the two together, and the Mac Studio looks like the G4 Cube with its clear polycarbonate shell removed and a massively slimmed-down version.

Although the cores of the two models are vastly different, you can still find that design connection across time in their appearance.

The G4 Cube was an important product in Mac history, offering similar performance to the flagship Power Mac G4 at the time, but only a quarter the size.

In order to simplify the fuselage volume, the G4 Cube even abandoned the radiator and adopted a passive cooling method of air convection. After excluding wind noise, the G4 Cube is almost silent during operation.

The simple shape and quiet working conditions are not the most attractive aspects of the G4 Cube. The G4 Cube is truly amazing, and you will only realize it when you upgrade and maintain it.

Unlike most consoles that require screwing and removing the back cover to upgrade, the disassembly of the G4 Cube is very simple – turn the console 180 degrees over, press the handle hidden at the bottom, and you can take out all the inside of the whole machine .

Pulling out all the core components of the computer through the handle is a unique interactive design in the history of the console. Among the many reputations the G4 Cube has won, "artwork" is the most appropriate description for it.

However, the G4 Cube, designed by Jonathan Ive and highly anticipated by Jobs, did not conquer professional users who were willing to pay for the design as Apple hoped.

In contrast, the G4 Cube, which sold only one-third of what Apple expected, was quickly halted a year after its release.

When Cook mentioned the G4 Cube in an interview at Oxford University in 2017, he said that Apple put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the G4 Cube, but unfortunately, the G4 Cube was a very commercial failure.

Part of the G4 Cube's failure stems from its obsession with perfect design.

The thermal compromises made to reduce the size make the G4 Cube run like a stove covered by a plastic hood.

The limited internal volume also makes the G4 Cube less expandable, something people don't want to see on an expensive computer.

More importantly, G4 Cube has not found its own user group.

Jobs placed the G4 Cube in the middle of the "requirements grid" at the press conference, believing that the innovative design of the G4 Cube would impress creative professionals and designers.

However, these people are only a few after all. The reality is that the G4 Cube is caught in a dilemma – interested consumers are discouraged by the high price, and consumers who can afford it are more willing to pay for the powerful performance. The two ends of the G4 Cube in the middle Not flattering.

Although the G4 Cube was not a commercial success, that doesn't mean it was a complete failure. On the contrary, the G4 Cube failed in large part because its concept was too advanced.

Jonathan Ive, who led the design of the G4 Cube, wanted to cram the power of a desktop into a small form factor to differentiate it from the traditional tower case designs of the past.

Jason Snell, author of Six Color, thinks it likely stemmed from Jobs and Ive's obsession with "black box" computers.

A "black box" is an ideal model of a microcomputer that can provide users with various functions and services required while having a beautiful appearance, without knowing how the inside works.

This concept has always run through Apple's subsequent designs. For example, the subsequent iPods and iPhones are typical "black box" products, and the G4 Cube can be said to be their pioneers.

The best second Mac to buy

When it comes to miniaturized Macs, I believe more people think of the Mac mini "as its name suggests" rather than its predecessor, the Power Mac G4 Cube, although the latter looks much more beautiful.

When Jobs released the Mac mini in 2005, he uttered a weird-sounding slogan: "BYODKM" — Bring Your Own Display Keyboard and Mouse.

The Mac mini is Apple's first computer since it entered the millennium without a monitor or mouse and keyboard. The reason why it is so "stingy" is that Apple wants those users who already have a set of peripherals to seamlessly switch to the Mac .

This is not only for new users of the Windows camp, but also for those who already use Macs.

▲ The understanding of "modularity" in the same line

Steve Jobs said the Mac mini would give those who want to buy a second Mac mini to let go of all excuses, and BYODKM is Apple's understanding of this "modular system", which has also been confirmed with Mac Studio.

More importantly, the Mac mini wants to keep the price as low as possible in this way, making it the most affordable option for those who want to get started with a Mac.

People may complain that the Mac mini with its entry-level processor is weak and lacks accessories, but as long as the price is reasonable enough, these negative voices are only a few. As Apple had hoped, the Mac mini was a huge hit after its release, becoming one of the evergreens in the Mac family.

So, is the Mac mini a successor to the G4 Cube?

The Mac mini has learned from the G4 Cube's failure to find its audience: the average consumer who needs a Mac to handle everyday applications and doesn't want to spend too much.

But from the perspective of product positioning, the Mac mini is obviously not the most powerful and versatile "black box" in Apple's mind. The Mac mini is just one step closer to it in form.

What does Pro really mean?

After Apple announced that it would switch from the Intel platform to the self-developed Arm chip platform, many Mac fans expected that Apple could revive the second-generation Mac Pro released in 2013.

Compared to the similar-looking Mac mini, the second-generation Mac Pro, which has been derided as a "trash can", is more like the successor to the G4 Cube: both have first-class performance, the same emphasis on design and miniaturization – and also because of the lack of Extensive and criticized.

The innovative "barrel-shaped" design made the Mac Pro and refreshed people's impression of high-performance computers. Apple used many highly customized components to make the barrel-shaped design a reality.

But this has also become the biggest factor restricting its play. The highly customized hardware makes it difficult for users to further upgrade and expand the Mac Pro, which has caused dissatisfaction among many professional users.

"Trash can" once again straddles the awkward position between ordinary users and top professional users.

Four years after its release, Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing director at the time, admitted his mistakes to users at a media discussion about the problems exposed by the "trash can" and promised to launch an expansion-focused device in the near future. The ultimate professional-grade computer, the third-generation Mac Pro in 2019.

Listening to the voice of professional users is an important change for Apple after the "trash can".

Apple is no longer obsessed with "education" of how this group of professional users fits in with the Mac, but instead integrates the Mac into their workflow as much as possible to solve the problems that prevent professionals from being creative.

▲ Picture from: Lunaranimation

To further understand these needs, Apple formed a team called Pro Workflow, whose members are mostly professionals from different fields such as animation production, photography, and music.

Pro Workflow can communicate directly with Apple's internal product department, and their suggestions affect the shape of Apple's professional products to a certain extent.

These professional users have strict requirements for computers, which is not only reflected in the difficulty of project engineering, but also in their pursuit of efficiency. What they need is a "tool" that truly improves efficiency.

Taking movie special effects production as an example, I believe that countless audiences have been shocked by the special effects of blockbuster films such as Harry Potter series and Marvel series in the cinema. Behind the scenes of these special effects work, there are often computers with serious heat and freezes. .

Because behind every 3D animation means millions of 3D models, it has extremely high demands on the memory bandwidth and processing speed of the computer.

At this time, switching to a Mac Pro with more memory and more computing power can save the project from falling into these dilemmas.

The large memory allowance not only makes the creative work stable and not prone to crash, but also can open multiple programs at the same time, adjust the model and preview the rendering at the same time, saving a lot of time for the creation.

When dealing with some large-scale scenes, instant and smooth adjustment is also one of the urgent needs of designers. For these creative-driven professionals, the improvement of computing efficiency is like unlocking the shackles on their hands, allowing them to use the whole body. Put your heart into the creation.

These voices from top users are also reflected in professional-grade products after the Mac Pro.

On the newly released MacBook Pro series and Mac Studio, in order to allow professionals to better connect peripherals, Apple has brought back the SD card slot and HDMI interface for the Mac.

This is not an easy decision for a company that has aggressively cut the 3.5mm headphone jack, and Apple is trying to win back the confidence of professional users.

How big is strong

Looking back at Mac Studio now, it should be easier to understand what kind of computer it was.

Still small in size, it is Apple's modern interpretation of the "black box" computer; compared with the expensive Mac Pro, it is the "people-friendly" choice for Apple's high-performance computer; in terms of performance, the highest optional M1 Ultra chip and 128GB of memory is enough for most professional jobs.

Mac Studio isn't the successor to one of the smaller Macs before it, it's the culmination of it all.

The experience of the PowerMac G4 Cube proves that if Apple wants to find a balanced foothold between ordinary consumers and professional users for the Mac, it must first find a clear user needs.

After the release of Mac Studio, Ai Faner had the honor to interview Tom Boger, vice president of Apple Mac and iPad product marketing. When talking about the positioning of Studio, Tom Boger shared his views.

We position Mac Studio between the Mac mini and Mac Pro, which is actually a very broad range, so you will see that the configuration flexibility of Mac Studio is particularly high.

For example, some creative workers who are still in their infancy or are just about to establish their own studio, Max Studio equipped with the M1 Max chip is very suitable to help them get started. For some users who want to further develop their creativity, the Mac Studio equipped with the M1 Ultra chip can help these professional users push their limits further and do more and more complex workflows.

The M1 Ultra chip released with Mac Studio is the well-deserved performance king in Apple's self-developed chip array.

Through the UltraFusion architecture, Apple has spliced ​​two M1 Max together, bringing the core configuration of up to 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU and memory bandwidth of up to 800GB/s, making it possible to edit hundreds of layers at the same time and edit multiple clips. Complicated work such as 8K video streaming is possible on a small computer, which is also a leap forward in the professional field of Apple's small models.

In order to maximize the performance of the M1 Ultra, the Mac hardware team has also made a lot of efforts in cooling this time.

Shelly Goldberg, Apple's senior director of Mac and iPad product design, introduced to Ai Faner that the Mac hardware team has done hundreds of simulations to come up with the most efficient air flow route-cold air enters the fuselage from the circular hole at the bottom, The hot air is blown out by the cooling holes on the back after passing through the dual-fan radiator cooling element.

Among them, there are slight differences between the angles of the more than 2,000 circular holes at the bottom. For this reason, Apple designed a special punching device to meet the design requirements.

In addition, the dual fans as the cooling core also have many details worth mentioning.

The Mac team divided the fan blades and the fan into two parts vertically. By adjusting the height of the two parts, the airflow noise can be effectively balanced when the fan is working, and the heat dissipation performance can be improved, so that the cooling system can work quietly and efficiently .

Comparing the Mac Studio with the predecessors of small models such as "Trash Can" and G4 Cube, you will find that Apple's efforts in cooling this time can be said to be unprecedented. From the disassembly report of iFixit, we can see that the cooling system of Mac Studio Occupying almost half of the fuselage volume, the heat dissipation curse of Apple's small models in the past was finally broken on it.

Judging from the evolution of the Mac, Apple has always held a bold and radical attitude in the exploration of computer forms, refreshing our imagination of a "computer" time and time again.

In the past, limited by the level of hardware, Apple always had some imperfections in the exploration of these new forms, but after Apple turned to its own chip platform, this imperfection is being slowly repaired by Apple.

The birth of the slim iMac and the powerful Mac Studio one after another proves that Apple's self-developed chips have given the Mac a very high degree of plasticity in terms of product form. Some fantastic ideas that could not be realized in the past are now gradually becoming a reality.

What kind of computer do we need in the future? Here again, the Mac has a different answer.

Title image from: Macworld

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