Wednesday Morning News

The good news is, Apple is working on a totally-redesigned Mac Pro that will be the Mac of my dreams. It will be able to accommodate high-end CPUs and GPUs, in a modular design that’s easy for Apple to push out updates for on a regular basis. Apple says they’re also working on releasing Apple-branded pro-level displays to go along with this mythical xMac that we’ve wanted for years.

In a small roundtable discussion about the Mac, John Gruber, Matthew Panzarino, Lance Ulanoff, Ina Fried, and John Paczkowski were invited to discuss the Mac lineup with some top Apple brass, including Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, John Ternus, and Bill Evans. According to Gruber, Phil Schiller broke the news on the Mac Pro by telling us about how Apple is currently rethinking the Mac Pro, so they can re-architect it to be the flagship it has always intended to be, as well as keep it up to date with regular updates and spec bumps, just like every other Mac in the lineup.

There’s a bunch more interesting stuff in Gruber’s post that we’ll get to in a bit, but the bad news for the time being is that this high-performance, modular Mac workstation won’t be shipping this year. There’s also no word on where it’ll be manufactured, if that kind of thing matters to you.

For now, though, the current trashcan Mac Pro gets a spec bump. Both models get an extra two cores to play with in the single-CPU configuration and an upgrade to the graphics cards. Nothing else changes, meaning that the design from 2013 will not be getting USB-C ports or Thunderbolt 3.

While the US gets a price drop on the new Mac Pro configurations and built-to-order upgrades, Australian pricing for the Mac Pro has gone up: the hexa-core version now starts at $4,899 (was $3,999), with the octo-core coming in at $6,499 (was $5,299). It’s hard to read through tears, I know, but it’s worth remembering that as much as Apple’s lack of updates are advantageous for us when it comes to currency fluctuations, it also goes the other way, like it has here.

All of this — Apple’s Mac Pro announcement and the hot takes from bloggers — means that Apple cares about the Mac, even it it left the top end Mac languish without an update for over 1200 days (about 500 days shy of breaking any records for the longest-selling Macs, by the way). Gruber points out that the Mac userbase is about 100 million people, with Macs bringing in about $25 billion for Apple annually. Apple says about 30% of its Mac users are what they would consider “pro”, with a single-digit percentage of the overall Mac userbase purchasing Mac Pros. That Apple cares about a minority of its users has to count for something.

The reason Apple provided for not updating the Mac has to do with the thermal design. The Mac Pro’s unique thermal design and ability to run near-silently on a desk meant that they had issues finding graphics cards and processors that would fit within the “thermal envelope”, and as much as they bet on Thunderbolt expandability and dual GPUs for compute power, the industry largely went the other way. Apple’s admission today says they’re sorry about not being able to upgrade it as much as they’d like.

Make no mistake: Apple are listening. They could have let the Mac Pro die a slow death. Instead, we’ve gotten an announcement that Apple are working on something, not just resting on their laurels or the successes of the iPhone. There will be new iMacs later this year, a new Mac Pro design maybe next year, and pro-level Apple displays around the same time. Things are looking up.

Notable Replies

  1. Erwin says:

    Great news re Mac Pro - ultimate dream:

    1. Base shell model is affordable

    2. Aftermarket board developers will create cards for it

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