Should Apple can the Mac?

macpro_5-100221179-orig-100591111-largeThe Wall Street Journal's Christopher Mims wants the Mac put to death: "Ditching its most-refined brand will allow Apple to focus on products that represent the future."

I honestly hope Apple is, as rumor holds, attempting to upend transportation by working on a car. How else would you, as chief executive, spend Apple's mind-boggling $195 billion in cash on hand?

This is an advanced case of punditism, forming in a place between insight, controversy-stirring, and a journalistic mentality reminiscent of industry analysts' stock tips. At the heart of it is the idea that the only things Apple should make are cool new things—Where's the Apple NextThing? It's been three years without a NextThing! Something something post-something-era.—and that sitting pretty on refined product lines is, historically, how tech companies become terminally stagnant.

Glenn Fleishman responds:

This would be the worst time of all for Apple to stop making Macs. The Mac isn't just a flagship product, despite its reduced share of revenue, and the reduced importance of personal computers in the universe of all computing devices. It's the foundation on which everything Apple is today was built. …

Apple will never again cede its future to other firms' control. It's why Apple makes its own chips, buys industrial-manufacturing firms that create special tools which it puts into its assembly partners' factories, and even blows a wad of cash on a failed attempt to generate more sapphire screens.

And it's why it has its own computer platform: 100 percent of software development for the iPhone, iPad, and Watch (and Mac apps) occurs on Macs. There's no other way to assemble software for those devices. Even with the highest-end Mac hardware currently available, developers strain against the amount of time it can take to compile and test builds, whether in Mac-based emulators or when cross-loaded onto a developers' test devices.

The Mac, at some level, is a highly profitable developer-platform division that happens to also serve consumers and businesses.