The 21" and 27" iMacs on display were at least relatively new, having received a minor refresh last October. But the Mac mini and Mac Pro models next to them — each plugged into one of the Thunderbolt displays Apple discontinued in June — were last updated in October 2014 and December 2013.
Now that Apple has rolled out a line of new laptops while once again leaving its desktop hardware idle, that store display will look just a bit gloomier next Monday. And for many Mondays thereafter.
Not long ago, Apple updated all of its desktops at least as often as it now updates the iPhone. Each year’s new models wouldn’t always bring huge changes, but going three years between upgrades usually ensured users would get a good value for their money.
Apple letting the Mac mini gather dust should have been the first warning. That affordably priced computer helped demolish the "Macs cost too much" storyline, but Apple started letting it go two years or more between updates.
And then Apple introduced a brand-new professional-grade desktop, the Mac Pro, and seems to have forgotten that it existed too — it hasn't seen a single update since the late 2013 introduction of the computer’s current cylindrical design.
The all-in-one iMac hasn't seen as much neglect, but its underlying design hasn't changed much aside from the removal of an optical drive. Note that the aging nature of these Mac desktops has yet to be offset with an appropriate discount.
The cost of going a year or two or three without an update starts with keeping users stuck on a slower processor.
One might not notice or mind it at home, and that's fair; as Adam Engst, editor of the long-running Mac news site TidBits, observed, "for most people, most of the time, CPU power is not a limiting factor."
But creative types who wrestle with pixels for a living — and pay high-end prices for the necessary hardware — certainly will.
"Windows is pretty far ahead on all sorts of processor intensive activities that Apple used to do well in," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group. He noted the powerful, stylish and expensive desktop Microsoft introduced recently: "Surface Studio is going to hurt Apple a lot in those professional categories."