Apple Reportedly Questions Mac Pro Line

| Rumor

Apple has reportedly been questioning the future of its professional line of Mac Pro towers in the face of decreasing sales. Citing unnamed sources, AppleInsider reported that Apple is debating whether or not to continue investing resources into the Mac Pro when technologies like Thunderbolt blur the differences in capabilities between Apple’s other Macs and the powerful Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro's Future?

The Mac Pro’s Future?

The key issue that Mac Pro sales have been steadily declining for some time. Apple’s MacBook Pros, iMacs, and even the Mac mini have all gotten powerful enough to meet the needs of many professional and Enterprise users who once would have needed to turn to the power configurability of a tower. Apple’s 27” iMac, for instance, has found a ready market in the prosumer and creative professional markets, while many other such customers want the flexibility of a MacBook Pro, or even a MacBook Air.

On top of that, Apple’s desktop sales, while growing overall, have been taking a shrinking percentage of Apple’s Mac sales, and all of that unit growth has come from the sale of iMacs. As noted above, Mac Pro sales have been decreasing.

So what’s a $120 billion per year company to do? Even though Intel has released new Sandy Bridge processors suitable for Apple’s Mac Pro line, and even though Apple supposedly has a new design all gussied up and ready to ride, the company apparently finds itself at a philosophical/profit crossroads and is considering phasing out the Mac Pro, at least as we’ve known it.

Thunderbolt allows massive data throughput, and few users actually use the PCI-Express slots in the Mac Pro, so it’s possible that Apple could introduce a beefed up Mac mini, or perhaps an iMac, that would meet all but the most demanding of Mac Pro customers.

In short, the times they are a changin’, and the Mac Pro could soon find itself relegated to the dustbins of history alongside the Xserve, the Cube, the Newton, and the Mac Portable.

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25 Comments Leave Your Own

Garion

If this should come to pass then Apple can expect the pro video editors to see it as the conclusive evidence of Apple abandoning the pro users.
Final Cut Pro X was seen as the first sign of that. If they also go and kill the Mac Pro line, well ... then I’m inclined to side with the critics.

Bryan Chaffin

I’m concerned about the pro audio market, as well. While I am personally a Logic user, there are some things done with hardware acceleration that are superior to Logic’s pure-software approach. I wonder if Thunderbolt will eventually accommodate acceleration boxes to replace PCI/e cards? I don’t think we’re there yet.

Lee Dronick

Apple Reportedly Questions Mac Pro Line

“We have ways of making you talk. Tim, administer the Siri.”

I had a G3 MDD, the one with the coin slots and the supercharger fan. I liked the way I could swap out hard drives and Ram. However, I replaced it with an iMac and for the most part I am happy, I have several external drives. I need to qualify that i don’t do heavy video and audio work so my needs almost certainly don’t fit those who do that kind of work. I understand that it is going to come down to a business decision, but I would hate to see Apple discontinue them.

geoduck

Let’s not forget that they dropped the Xserve recently as well. While this is a rumor it would fit with a general pullback from the pro/enterprise market.

Joris

Man i was just thinkin about getting a new mac pro because the imac doesn’nt cut it for the real jobs. WHen u ar a writer.. Ok but do some editing n afterfx render and have fiinalcut open with motion, photoshop, illustrator etc etc .. You want and need multiple disks. A scrtach a slave a master and a system disk… grin)

Joris

I’m a heave video and afterfx user and Need a mac pro, just because of the disk space and pci slots. If they discontinue from top down they will break down all tHe gratitude They build up in the last 10 years!! This is totaly wrong. The pro’s will stop, semi Pros stop and tell consumrs to stop. Also the experience of new ideas will be stoped. NOT good

Steve Wouldn't Like It

I really wanted to buy a mac pro or two. Why? Because I like to have 80 tabs open in Chrome, and because Chrome hogs RAM and has a memory leak too, this requires 16GB of RAM, and its impossible or way expensive to get 16GB in anything but a Mac Pro.

I also like running a triple-vertical-monitor setup (3x Dell 2412) and this is pretty much impossible using any Apple kit but a Mac Pro. For the price of 1 27” mac monitor, I get 3 Dell monitors, the stand supports rotation, and I get a log more pixels.

Now I was perfectly eager to do this using a Mac Pro. But the current (and last?) Mac Pro is still top dollar, and very long in the tooth, with an old CPU.

So instead I built 2 hackintoshes. They’re a hassle, but they were the only viable compromise Apple left me with. It looks like I’ll be glad I did, if Apple short-sightedly kills the Mac Pro line.

Come on Apple, how hard could it be to put in the latest Intel CPU and ship one last version of the Mac Pro. Jobs is barely cold and already the MBA bean-counters have started ruining his legacy. All I can say is “Steve wouldn’t like it”.

JonGl

So instead I built 2 hackintoshes. They?re a hassle, but they were the only viable compromise Apple left me with. It looks like I?ll be glad I did, if Apple short-sightedly kills the Mac Pro line.

Hm. Makes me wonder if it wouldn’t work for Apple to license a PC manufacturer to create desktop computers, and outsource their “pro” line. Nothing else, and only one manufacturer/licensee for these things.

-Jon

JonGl

For the record, I’m playing with Firefox, and the site isn’t working too well. For instance, I can’t select text, and using the gear, get the “quote selected text” function to work, and the “click to continue” after posting didn’t work either. I’m on FF 7.0.1.

-Jon

macjeffff

I hope Apple builds one more super-duper Mac Pro. OK, it might be the last, but it would be truly sad to see this languishing line die a miserable death. Who knows? If they built an epic Mac Pro, sales might be impressive. The current offerings are stale.

mrmwebmax

+

I do heavy-duty work on my iMac, including Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut (pre-X), and Cinema 4D. Mine’s a 3.06GHz dual-core 24”. Had it for 2-3 years now, and just recently had the internal hard drive crash. That’s the first and only problem I’ve had. (I now use an external 7200 RPM LaCie FireWire 800 drive as my boot disk, and the system is even faster thanks to the extra RPM.) The iMac handles everything I throw at it. I imagine many other designers feel the same, and given the price difference between an iMac and a Mac Pro, it’s no wonder the iMac it outselling the Pro by far.

If Apple is to keep the Mac Pro alive (ie, sell more of them), they need to bring the price down closer to the iMac, else the iMac will continue to cannibalize sales.

Yes, when my hard drive blew it would have been nice to pop open a door and replace it (as I did on the 933MHz G4 tower I’m still using at work, along with a MBPro), but the FireWire solution worked just fine, and is certainly preferable to paying the extra cost for a Pro. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard, even amongst power users.

FlipFriddle

I really hope they don’t kill it, but perhaps heavily redesign it, maybe more like a super Mac-mini, some kind of ultra-modifiable chassis. I definitely think the iMac has totally eaten up the MacPros print and web design audience. I have a 2009 iMac at home and it’s much better than my 2006 MacPro at work running CS5. For print and web I don’t see the needs changing much in the future without a radical shift in printing technology. But I think a trully powerful Mac is still a great thing to offer for video and audio whose resolution and speed requirements keep climbing. I think having a super-fast desktop model in your stable helps with bragging rights too which has some value in advertising and PR when it comes to the tech press. I think a dramatic redesign will reinvigorate the model. It still looks like a G5.

Lee Dronick

Because I like to have 80 tabs open in Chrome

Good God! Why?

Steve Wouldn't Like It

I like to see the big picture, that’s why I have 80 tabs open.

KitsuneStudios

@Steve: Actually, “Cant use 16 GB” isn’t true. Apple charges $600 to upgrade to 16GB of RAM, but you can do the same from Crucial for $110, or get 2x8GB for $600, going to a whopping 32GB for $1200.

That said, I agree there needs to be a user upgradable Mac design at the high end. Thunderbolt can offload some of the PCI elements, but the value of internal drive slots, expansion cards, and video card customization, are all vital to video professionals, 3d graphic designers and audio pros.

The Pros are in serious need of a refresh. While the iMac 27” works for my needs, I have to admit, the Hackintoshes are looking increasingly appealing to me, despite the fact that one of the big reasons for choosing Apple has been the stability and reliability of the “whole widget” approach.

Ross Edwards

OK, I think I need to ask you guys for some pointers here, since many of you know more about this than me.

I have been preparing to buy a Mac Pro on the refresh, and now these various articles (and the commentary after them) on the rumor sites about the Pro’s possible demise have me wondering if it’s really true that the lesser systems plus Thunderbolt are enough to cover the same functionality for most users.

I have about 3 TB of video files right now.  About a third is family video, a third is music video (as I am an avid collector of that), and a third is movies, mostly “BR + Digital Copy” products.  (Did you know there are people who don’t redeem their digital copies and sell them for $3-$5 on eBay?  Sure beats paying iTMS $19.99 for the same file)

Under Apple’s current organizational scheme with photos and family video in iPhoto, with my content, I need almost a terabyte to have a complete iPhoto archive of the family video and photos.  My current iMac doesn’t have room, but the new iMacs would… IF I don’t go SSD, which seems to be the better way to go.  But then I’ll need to park that stuff on a TBolt external.  Is that going to be fast enough access?  I’ve tried mounting an external USB drive as ~/Pictures and it was a disaster.  Every read and write operation on the photo database by iPhoto was sssoooo sssllloooowwww you couldn’t do ANYTHING.  Is Thunderbolt really as fast—on ACCESS, not just sustained transter—as an internal SATA drive?  Right now I simply cannot organize my family videos with iPhoto, AT ALL.  And I have to copy files over one by one to use them with iMovie.  Lousy.

Similarly, to keep all my music video and movies in iTunes, I currently have to organize the files myself, because I don’t even have 2TB of internal HDD, let alone 2TB *free*.  This is not optimal for a number of reasons (such as: it’s all or nothing, and organizing music files is a pain) but at least it lets me keep them all on an external USB drive.  However, AppleTV does a terrible job with this stuff, organizationally and in performance, and in the end I just gave up on iTunes for movies and MVs and I am stuck streaming it all to my X360 via Rivet.  Again, not optimal.  I would like to use Apple’s integrated solution, but cannot.  I tried mounting the external drive as ~/Movies and having iTunes manage the files, and it was just as much of a slow, grinding nightmare.  So, is TB good enough to have iTunes manage the files on an external HDD?  Not in theory.  I want to hear from someone who has TRIED it.

Now, there is no question that the Mac Pro would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, solve this.  Even the mid-2010 Pro would let me slide in four $89 WD Caviar Black 2TB drives, set up a 6TB RAID-5, and be set for the long term with data redundancy.  Problem is, the mid-2010 Pro is horrifically underpowered for its price now that it’s so stale, and no Thunderbolt, no Lion Recovery firmware, and so on.  If there was a MP refresh, even if they discontinued the line after that, I could buy it and put in new CPUs and RAM as needed (as in the earlier article here on TMO).  But if not?  What the hell do I do?  Would a top-end late-2011/early-2012 iMac with a nice big TBolt drive array plugged in take care of it?  Should I go SSD or just try to wedge a 3TB or 4TB HDD internally, or both?  (given the temperature sensor snafu I’m not even sure what it’s possible for me to do in that regard). 

Please, Apple, I just want to use my computer to work with, archive, and serve video.  It’s supposed to be one of the things the Mac is best at.  Why won’t you let me do this???

Feedback, suggestions, and follow-up questions welcomed.

What Would Steve Do

It’s really asinine that Apple would kill the Mac Pro. Its the only fully Apple way to get 1. lots of disk space 2. lots of memory 3. lots of monitors 4. lots of CPU.

Since they seem unwilling to provide this, 1. to build a hackintosh, I suggest the tonymacx86 website. 2. you can get lots of disk space with a NAS, though my Synology (5x 3TB) is acting a little squirrely since Lion even with 2 firmware upgrades.

bweels

I do heavy-duty work on my iMac, including Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut (pre-X), and Cinema 4D. Mine?s a 3.06GHz dual-core 24?.

Same here, mrm, and I completely agree with you. With one caveat. I have a Mac Pro at work and an iMac at home. I run a Windows CAD program in Fusion, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. and my iMac isn’t any less capable than the Pro. I have (had?) the same machine as you. At 37 months, a month after AppleCare ran out, my video card bit the dust. I know from what I’ve read that Apple will charge $800-900 to replace it. The part is hard to find and it’s major surgery on the machine.

Rather than spend almost half the cost of a new iMac fixing a 3-year old computer, I bought a new iMac.

Apple: if you discontinue the Pro, PLEASE make the HD and video card accessible on the iMac!!! And fix the heat dissipation issues that kill internal parts.

I still may fix it. The card offered on the lower-end models at the time will run in it and I can buy one for $250. I just have to decide if I want to bet the $250 on my ability to tear down and rebuild the dang thing.

webjprgm

Killing MacPro would mostly kill the Apple Cinema Display market too, unless they do as you suggest and make the MacMini beefy enough to attract professionals.

Isn’t the falling sales of MacPro a chicken-and-egg problem, since they haven’t updated it in a while naturally people aren’t buying very many of them.

I do, however, think the direction they are likely to take in the long-term is to have a smaller MacPro that is similar to a MacMini.  The MacPro case is huge, and if you focus on thunderbolt, all the added capabilities are external to the machine’s box.  I hope they don’t just try to push the MacMini itself on professionals though; it would still need to be slightly larger to accommodate certain ports, expansion cards, and high-end graphics cards.

webjprgm

but the new iMacs would? IF I don?t go SSD

I got the new iMac with SSD + 2TB hard drive. I put all iTunes content on the HDD and the rest of my apps and documents fit just fine in the SSD.

I have about 3 TB of video files right now

I guess that’s your problem, though, since the iMac’s HDD is still just 2TB.  Thunderbolt should theoretically be fast enough.  I’m sorry I can’t answer about having actually tried it.  The best info I have is the recent MacObserver article LaCie Little Big Disk.  I will personally be looking at details of the larger ones when they come out, since I want more than 1TB of 7200 RPM drive.

webjprgm

It?s really asinine that Apple would kill the Mac Pro. Its the only fully Apple way to get 1. lots of disk space 2. lots of memory 3. lots of monitors 4. lots of CPU.

1. Thunderbolt, 2. Depends on definition of “lots”, but iMac can handle 16GB according to Apple specs, 3. iMac, MacMini, MacBook Pro with thunderbolt all support daisy-chaining Apple Cinema Display for lots of monitors. But they don’t do rotation as some people want, and they are expensive. 4. iMac CPU is “lots” compared to the latest MacPro.

WWSJD

1. expensive 2. have you priced 8GB SoDIMMs lately? $579 for 16GB. 3. For $1000 I can buy ONE Apple Cinema Display… or THREE dell 2412’s and get 3600x1920 instead of 2560x1440. 4. um, maybe that’s why Apple is seeking this decline in Mac Pro sales. 5. Thunderbolt to PCI expansion cage is $1000, and you’re off the reservation as far as drivers, for all we know Apple will actively resist this solution.

Lee Dronick

maybe that?s why Apple is seeking this decline in Mac Pro sales

Son I really doubt that Apple is “seeking” declines in Mac Pro sales. More likely, seeing as they are Macs, they last a hell of lot longer than your chintzy Dells.

zewazir

One other item Apple needs to consider before axing the Pro is the economy.  We have been in an economic downturn since well before the last Pro upgrade. Poor economy often results in businesses putting off and/or reducing as many expenses as possible. This would include keeping their current inventory of older (but still highly functional) Pros, an/or replacing (or adding inventory) using the less expensive iMac line - not because the iMac can do everything a Pro can (it can’t - it just comes close enough for many people to take advantage of the price difference) - but rather because laying out the extra a new Pro would cost simply is too big a risk in today’s economic environment.

But the thing is, as bad a things look economically, downturns do not last forever. It would be a poor move on Apple’s part to do away with the Pro line, only to find the Pro market open up again when the economy really does start to recover, but too late for Apple because their market has moved on to other manufacturers for their super-tower needs.

IMO, Apple should hang onto the Pro line for at least a couple more years, maybe tweaking them with some (relatively) minor upgrades - newer processors, increased bus speed, etc. Then when economic recovery starts bringing up business investments in new equipment, hit the market with a fully upgraded Super-Pro. One, because the thunderbolt technology, which potentially (but not reality yet) can put an iMac on the same expandability footing as the Pro, is still too young and expensive to have wide range application. Two, because current Pro sales (or lack) can be easily as much the fault of economic environment as a paradigm shift (IF it is a paradigm shift - something I personally doubt) away from the expandable tower solution to data processing.

What Would Steve Do

I will say only that I love Macintosh, as a product line, in general, but one thing that I very much dislike about most Macs is their lack of both customizability and repairability,  If Apple were to pull Mac Pro, then I have my doubts as to how many people would leave Apple’s side along with it.

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