The Mac Pro, long thought dead by many pro users, will return. Apple recently invited several journalists from places like TechCrunch, Mashable, and Buzzfeed, to an on-the-record conversation about the future of its Mac Pros and iMacs. John Gruber at Daring Fireball sums up the news most succinctly:
Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.
I also have not-so-great news:
These next-gen Mac Pros and pro displays “will not ship this year”. (I hope that means “next year”, but all Apple said was “not this year”.) In the meantime, Apple is today releasing meager speed-bump updates to the existing Mac Pros. The $2999 model goes from 4 Xeon CPU cores to 6, and from dual AMD G300 GPUs to dual G500 GPUs. The $3999 model goes from 6 CPU cores to 8, and from dual D500 GPUs to dual D800 GPUs. Nothing else is changing, including the ports. No USB-C, no Thunderbolt 3 (and so no support for the LG UltraFine 5K display).
There are also upgraded iMacs on the way for this year, with some models theoretically targeted at professionals.
I’m fascinated by the quotes from executives, such as this one Craig Federighi:
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
Also, here’s Phil Schiller on the decision to take a different path:
As we’ve said, we made something bold that we thought would be great for the majority of our Mac Pro users. And what we discovered was that it was great for some and not others. Enough so that we need to take another path. One of the good things, hopefully, with Apple through the years has been a willingness to say when something isn’t quite what we wanted it do be, didn’t live up to expectations, to not be afraid to admit it and look for the next answer.
It’s rare for any major company, let alone one with a culture like Apple’s, to admit they’ve made a strategic error of this magnitude, so kudos to them for their honesty. The most recent Mac Pro was indeed a massive miscalculation.
But will a new Mac Pro next year be enough to satisfy professionals? Many are already fleeing the platform due to the lack of communication up to this point. I’m not sure this news will be enough to reassure them to stay.