So earlier this week there was an interesting bit of news. A handful of journalists were invited to Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California for a roundtable discussion on the Mac or more explicitly the MacPro.
The MacPro has been a huge point of debate among people who use Apple products to earn a living. It was last redesigned in 2013, where it abandoned the traditional PC tower form and became a small cylinder. Since that redesign the product has been left largely unchanged leading many to speculate that Apple was intent on leaving the professional market and focusing on the larger and widely more profitable iPhone and iOS market.
Now while I do not own a MacPro I have to say that the situation with the MacPro was very concerning to me. I earn my living working from an Apple computer. If the company decides to no longer prioritize that it puts me in a very awkward position where I might have to do the unthinkable and switch to Windows. And who in their right mind would want to do that?
Finally Apple has gotten out in front of this and addressed the elephant in the room. So let’s start with the good news. There is a new MacPro coming. The bad news is it won’t be here until next year. Here is what Apple’s Phil Schiller had to say as transcribed by Apple correspondent John Gruber:
With regards to the Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call “completely rethinking the Mac Pro”. We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers.
As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.
Reading that I expect it revert back to a traditional tower form. Perhaps smaller that the previous G5 generation since it now longer needs to accommodate spinning disks and optical drives. But a traditional tower that allows Apple to easily upgrade it with the latest CPUs and GPUs once a year. From the same roundtable discussion Apple’s Craig Federighi was pretty candid about the problems with the current MacPro line:
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.
Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate. So it became fairly difficult to adjust. At the same time, so many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by a Mac Pro through next generation iMac. And really put a lot of our energy behind that.
So I think this is really good news. To make a statement like this and take blame and admit to having messed up really shows that the company remains committed to professional users. It sucks that people will have to wait a year for a new MacPro but at least now they know where things stand. It’s also great to know there is a more professional version of the iMac coming out. Meaning their pro lines will actually expand and have more options.
If you are interested in this I recommend checking out this article from John Gruber. He was one of the journalists who attended the briefing and did a great job summarizing it.