I have the power!

Alex Kidman
10 January, 2008
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Well, actually, I don’t. Keen fans of really quite poor, toy-driven ’80s cartoon flicks might remember (possibly even fondly) that the title of this entry was screamed by the frighteningly effeminate Prince Adam of Eternia, right before he transformed into the steroid-overpowered He-Man. I don’t know about you, but I was grossly disappointed that the female version of He-Man wasn’t called She-Woman, but I digress…

The quote was brought fresh into my mind yesterday by the rather startling news that Apple’s updated its Mac Pro and Xserve lines, primarily by Apple’s use of the similar "Tower Of Power" tag line to
promote it. As a further aside, I reckon Apple’s slipping a bit recently when it comes to catchy tag lines for its product — "Tower of Power" made me think of crappy cartoons, and "Add a Mac to your
Mac" made me wonder if it turned them into, for example, iMacMacs, MacMacBooks/Pro, MacMacPros and MacMac Minis, or if we’d all been struggling blindly along with Macless Books and Minis and the like until Leopard came along. Neither slogan is a "think different", although perhaps that’s what Apple’s Ad department has been doing all along.

Now, I don’t own a desktop Mac, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. The worldwide trend in recent years has been towards notebook ownership, and this is true in the Mac world too. The mini has a nice form factor, but it’s somewhat stymied in the power stakes — and let’s face it, for not a whole lot more money you could get the low-end MacBook, which is in many ways a Mac Mini with a screen — and I was always torn between getting an iMac (although I liked the older design better) and a Mac Pro, although I’d have to say "hang the expense, and don’t feed the children for a few months" to my wife in order to do so. Shortly followed by going into hiding, in fear for my life.

Still, I somewhat want one of the new Mac Pros. Part of it is the cranky old codger in me coming out. I grew up on a diet of non-portable machines with plenty of power for their day. While I haven’t
had a chance to actually play with the new Mac Pro, one would hope that with eight memory cores across two processors, it should certainly not lack in the power department. I mean, if an 867Mhz G4 can "run" Leopard (as Apple claims), what do the two 2.8GHz Quad Core processors in the Pro actually do — make Leopard see through time? In tech geek terms, having that kind of power is just plain fun, even if I can’t justify it from a creative or financial standpoint.

There are catches to the new Mac Pro. It wouldn’t be an Apple without them, after all. Most notably, the entry level $3999 only comes with 2GB of memory, and as seems always to be the case, Apple charges a bomb for any additional, warranty-covered memory. Want a Pro with 8GB? That’ll be an additional $2130, thanks — or to put it another way, you could have an 8GB Pro machine — or a 2GB machine, and two and a half Mac Minis to go with it. If you need 32GB, it’ll set you the equivalent of fifteen extra Mac Minis (or thirty 8GB iPod touches) to get there. Quite what you’d do with fifteen Mac Minis or thirty iPod touches is up to you.

The graphics capabilities of the Pro are also somewhat drool inducing — but if you want either of the Nvidia options, the delivery date slips somewhat. And by "somewhat", I mean (at the time of writing, and according to the Australian Apple Store’s online delivery calculator), you go from a 2-3 business day delivery to a 3-5 week delivery schedule. To fit a graphics card. And quite possibly so that the guys in the delivery dock can spend three weeks playing Crysis at full resolution, but perhaps I’m just being overly cynical there.

The timing of the announcement is a curious tactic for Apple. Announcing a refresh of a major product line six days out from the Macworld Expo is a little weird; I can’t think why Steve Jobs wouldn’t have wanted to pull a big blue sheet off a Mac Pro (the Xserve market is pretty specialised when you come to it) and startle the world with it. Then again, perhaps he’s got something even snazzier in mind; a Flash-based MacBook Pro that costs $300, reads your mind, does your ironing and has a Time Machine that works with any wireless network connection.

Remember — you read it here first.

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