Apple's line of high-end desktop towers could be more endangered than originally thought, with a new report claiming that the company is considering shelving what is currently its most expensive product.
Citing anonymous sources, AppleInsider said that a sharp decline in sales of the workstations, which begin at US$2499, have led executives to reconsider whether it's worth continuing to invest in the product line.
"People familiar with the matter said management as far back as May of 2011 were in limbo over whether to pour any additional resources into the product line," the report says.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying that the company does not comment on rumours and speculation.
Apple does not break down its sales numbers by device, and only lists them by product category, with the most recent fiscal quarter pulling in sales of 4.89 million Macs. Yet, most of those in this most recent quarter, as well as in the past few years, have been the company's portables. During its fourth-quarter earnings call, the company noted that sales were "fuelled by the very strong growth of the MacBook Air, as well as the continued strong performance of the MacBook Pro". All told, those two portables accounted for 74 per cent of Mac sales for the quarter, with desktop sales being led not by the Mac Pro, but by Apple's iMac, instead.
Apple last updated its Mac Pro line on 27 July 2010 (that's one year, three months and four days ago, if you're counting), bumping up the processing power to 12 cores and moving to speedier graphics cards. The exterior design has remained relatively unchanged since before the company made its move to Intel processors. A report from MacRumors last week suggested that the next update to the hardware might not come until the first quarter of 2012, given recent delays to Intel's Sandy Bridge E processor line.
If Apple was to shelve its Mac Pro line, it would further bring into question Apple's involvement in the professional market, something that has been under a microscope over the past few years. Most recently, that shift can be seen with the company's transition from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X, a jump that left a number of video professionals dissatisfied after Apple omitted key workflow features. Apple countered, saying that the new version of the software represents a complete rethink of that particular software line, the likes of the jump from Mac OS 9 to OS X. A similar effort has been rumoured to be in the works for Apple's audio software Logic, which has gone the longest without a major release among Apple's line of pro software.
On the hardware side, pros have also taken aim at Apple for moving to glossy screens on its notebooks by default, as well as making the batteries on those units unable to be swapped in favour of delivering longer battery life.
In either case, there's no arguing with the fact that desktop sales just aren't what they used to be compared to when Apple introduced the original design of the Mac Pro (then the Power Mac G5) in mid 2003. While Mac hardware sales have grown considerably overall, notebooks have been the belle of the ball since they surpassed the company's sales of desktop computers in 2004. Those same notebook units now face cannibalisation from Apple's iPad, which itself blew past Mac sales last year.