Headless Thoughts: Composable DXP Explained through Apple’s Mac Computers

Matthew McQueeny - Relationships & Community Lead

28 Mar 2022

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Over the last five years, I have become a convert to Apple’s Mac computers.  It started with a Macbook Pro (2016 edition) and has since gone on to include a Mac Mini M1 and a Macbook Pro M1.  Today, I even put my order in for the impressive-looking and performing Mac Studio.    

In my continual efforts to educate the marketplace and decision-makers on the merits and definition of Composable DXP, (Headless, and Jamstack,) I am always pondering analogies.  I have been thinking lately about how Apple’s Mac computer line could help explain Composable DXP.  

Composable DXP is about using the best-of-breed solutions – and/or the tools that satisfy-your-needs – for each of the key elements of your technology and communications stack.  It is about tying these services together through APIs and microservices.  It is about businesses and platforms built and developed to connect seamlessly atop this architecture.  Elements of the stack can include content management, internal search, e-mail marketing, form building, analytics, personalization, visualization, social media management and distribution, hosting, and more.  

Comparing Composable DXP to Apple’s Mac Lineup. In Apple’s Mac line, there are fully “composable” solutions, in the Mac Pro, Mac Mini, and Mac Studio.  These devices are fully powered desktop computers in the form of a tower (Mac Pro), or a smallish square that can fit in your hands (Mac Mini, Mac Studio).  Aside from the power plug, that is all you receive in the box.  Prices can span widely, from entry level (Mac Mini) to premium price (Mac Pro). These devices represent the architecture for your composable platform, or stack.  They also exhibit Apple’s efforts to improve its part of the composable puzzle, as the Mac Mini and Mac Studio showcase the company’s new proprietary system-on-a-chip, M1. Previously, Apple had always built on Wintel – Windows and Intel – chips.    

With these, you then put together – or compose – the rest of your computer experience, including considerations for computer screen, web camera, speakers/earphones, microphone, keyboard, mouse, extra storage, etc.  Each one of these components can be researched for the best option (best-of-breed) available. Pricing and options can fluctuate based on features, interoperability, and expectations.  Perhaps you already have options for some of these on-hand.  Those AirPods you have can slot in as your speaker and microphone (Headless Headphones?).  That Amazon Echo, Google Home/Nest Audio, or Apple HomePod in your office could be an external speaker.  Your Apple Watch can replace Touch ID.  That spare computer screen can provide you your visuals.  For me, my involvement in podcasting over the last eight years has left with me with many HD webcams, like the Logitech HD C920, and high-quality USB microphones, such as the Blue Yeti or ATR 2100.  These fit into my composable computer stack very well.  And you know those little adapters that Apple makes necessary to connect to AV, USB, etc.?  Those are kind of like APIs connecting parts of your stack…  

This direction is equivalent to being fully composable.  In the world of DXP, it is akin to having Sitecore’s Content Hub, Kontent by Kentico, Contentful, or Contentstack for your headless CMS; Ultra Commerce for your headless commerce; Uniform for personalization; Google Analytics for your analytics; a DAM, or digital asset management, solution; a PIM (Product Information Management); and more.     

Apple also has its own best-of-breed solutions for these other stack elements, including some that bundle services.  Its new Studio Display brings a combined computer screen, 12MP camera, spatial audio, microphone, and a silicon computer chip installed.   The Studio Display is at 32 percent of the price of what had been the only option for this previously, the Pro Display XDR.  A composable marketplace allows for this kind of competition, including in this case from within.  

This is reminiscent of companies like Uniform or Optimizely, which can couple several headless elements under one virtual roof, like content, commerce, DAM, personalization, hosting, and optimization.  

As we move up through the Apple Mac line, we make our way towards a more monolithic or traditional architecture.  The Macbook Pro is a laptop, so it comes equipped with computer screen, keyboard, mouse, camera, microphone, Touch ID, storage, etc.   Now, is the internal microphone better than a professional USB microphone?  Is the 13-, 14-, or 16-inch screen big enough for your purposes?  Could you get a markedly better web cam at a cheap price point?  This is the balance when thinking about the monolith and the bundle vs. a composable architecture.  Interestingly enough, I have a 27-inch LG computer screen that I plug my Macbook Pro into in my home office.  I can then make the screen on the laptop a second screen, while still benefitting from the camera, microphone, keyboard, and mouse to manage both.  This reminds me of something I have read about from Contentstack, where the company positions its headless content management system (CMS) as a second CMS to work alongside a legacy one.    

Apple’s most “monolithic” computer is the iMac.  This provides a 24-inch screen with camera and microphone, speakers, keyboard, mouse, Touch ID.  The internal memory and storage are fixed.  While you can choose from seven colors, there is not very much here to compose.  The bundled pricing for all this is impressive, but it also means that you need to essentially buy the full package/bundle each time, which in the world of computing can be as often as every few years (kind of like traditional DXP upgrades!).  And, like the Macbook Pro, are all these bundled services going to be satisfactory to your needs across each one of them?  If you start “plugging in” alternate products and services to the monolith, it begins to defeat the purpose of having the monolith.  Composing your platform as much as possible will – just like in the composable DXP marketplace – future proof and diversify your stack portfolio as much as possible, allowing you to stay agile and nimble to the changing environment.  That Mac Studio I just purchased will slot in directly to the stack that my Mac Mini M1 had been powering up until today.  Its presence will also improve and further enliven the screens, camera, microphones, etc. 

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Matthew McQueeny

Matt is a digital marketing professional and web project manager with over 15 years of experience.  He has worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 to startups. Industries of digital project experience include healthcare, publishing, technology, telecommunications, education, retail, entertainment, manufacturing, and transportation. In 2023, Matt was awarded his first Sitecore MVP, in recognition for his work in the Sitecore community. 

He loves the intersection of technology, marketing, and communications.  Throughout his career, he worked with many licensed and open-source content management systems, in editorial, social media strategy and advertising, search engine marketing, lead generation, analytics, and podcasting.

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