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Is Apple’s Mac Pro desktop suffering a slow, painful death?

Before MacBooks and iMacs received quad-core processors, creative and business professionals used Apple’s premiere hardware product, the Mac Pro. To summarize, the Mac Pro is a gigantic desktop computer supporting 8 and 12-core configurations with up to 32 GB of memory. It’s a beast, inside and out. And it’s also Apple’s last “true” desktop computer. The iMac, by definition, is an All-in-One machine.

The Mac Pro hasn’t seen a refresh since 2009, when Apple introduced the 12-core model. This isn’t surprising, given many of Apple’s computers now support quad-core processing using Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. For 99 percent of the population, Apple’s high-end Macs are more than sufficient. However, recent press indicates Apple has forgotten about the 1 percent of users who need the horsepower, such as graphic designers, video editors, and animators.

Three years later, is the Mac Pro still relevant to Apple’s product strategy? Yes – and no. Could Apple survive if they slashed the Mac Pro from their lineup altogether? You bet! But throwing in an Ivy Bridge processor and beefing up the video card couldn’t hurt either. For Apple, it’s about balancing the production and R&D costs over the added benefit.

Unless you’re a professional or require crazy amounts of computing power, the Mac Pro is overkill. Even the desktop faithful are beginning to switch to MacBooks, which integrate surprisingly well with Apple’s Cinema Display product line. The question is: could Apple sell enough Mac Pro’s to make it worth their while?

Not likely. Companies, professionals, and engineers are using quad-core MacBook Pros on the job, which accomplish most everything the Mac Pro can. And if they absolutely need a desktop, the quad-core, 1 TB iMac configurations do the trick.

But what about the 1 percent? From a PR standpoint, Apple should reposition their notebook lines for professionals – highlight the Pro in MacBook Pro. As someone who’s dealt with PR firestorms, it’s also in their interest to appease the 1 percent. Spruce up the ‘ole rig and keep it alive without investing too much into it. Chances are, those who buy Mac Pros to begin with, are the same folks who own gabs of iPhones and iPads.

By cutting the Mac Pro, Apple would cause more harm than good. But it surely doesn’t align with their product strategy. Consider the Final Cut Pro X incident, where they crippled their once award-winning video editing software. Intentional or not, Apple isn’t catering to the professional crowd the Mac Pro attracts. And why would they? Apple is doing more than fine without them, considering iPad and iPhone sales are their cash cow.

Ahead of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next week, analysts debate whether Apple will introduce a new version of the Mac Pro. I wouldn’t bet your money on it. Simply because Apple can sell exponentially more MacBooks and iMacs than they can Mac Pros.

If you own a Mac Pro, what are your reasons for not switching to a MacBook Pro or iMac? Tell us what you’d like to see in the imaginative 2012 Mac Pro. Perhaps your dreams will come true next week at WWDC 2012!