With the Mac Pro pushing four years old and concerns Apple is abandoning the pro market, the company did something very out of character: It announced a totally redesigned Mac Pro is in the works, along with a pro display. The Mac Pro is getting a minor speed bump today, too. Looks like it’s damage control time in Cupertino.
Apple spilled the beans by inviting a handful of writers to its Mac Product Realization Lab in Cupertino where they met with Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and John Ternus who is the vice president responsible for Mac hardware engineering. They had a frank discussion about the state of the Mac Pro where Schiller said,
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.
He went on to say Apple is working on a “modular system,” and that includes a pro display. They aren’t shipping, however, this year. “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,” Schiller said.
What Apple is saying is that pro users who have been waiting for release something—or anything—new in the pro desktop space have to wait a little longer, but there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. That, coupled with today’s minor performance bump, may keep its pro desktop user base from moving to competing Windows machines—at least that’s the hope.
Today’s updates are CPU and GPU only, no Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C. The US$3,999 model gets and 8 core Xeon CPU, up from 6 cores, and the dual AMD D500 GPUs are now D800 GPUs. The $2,999 now has a 6 core CPU instead of 4, and includes dial AMD G500 GPUs instead of the G300.
Apple, the Mac Pro, and Customer Confidence
The problem Apple is facing right now is that many of its customers have lost faith in the company’s pro-level computer strategy and feel abandoned. That’s no spurprise considering the company’s last pro desktop came out over three years ago, and many in its target market flet the design was too limiting.
The current Mac Pro was introduced in June 2013 and shipped in December of that year. Its cylinder shape can’t hold expansion cards, there isn’t room for additional internal drives, the GPUs are relatively lower performance, and feels like a design that’s been painted into a corner where expandability isn’t an option.
Apple hasn’t done anything to refresh the current Mac Pro since it shipped even while competitors keep rolling out new pro-level desktops with new processors, more RAM, and better GPU options. The Mac Pro is, for all practical purposes, a nearly four year old snapshot in time.
That’s changing soon-ish, and the message Apple is hoping it’s giving pro customers is, “We haven’t forgotten you.” The message they may be hearing, however, is “Don’t go. Please. Really, were going to fix this.” Still, the promise of a compelling new Mac Pro with a high end display to match is enticing if Apple pulls it off, and if it isn’t too late.
Here Comes the Pro iMac
Apple isn’t looking at the Mac Pro as its only pro desktop option. New iMacs are coming later this year, according to Schiller, “specifically with the pro customer in mind and acknowledging that our most popular desktop with pros is an iMac.”
It’s possible the iMac is popular with pro users because in many ways it out performs the aging Mac Pro. That said, more pro-level feature in Apple’s all-in-one desktop can’t hurt.
Based on Apple’s uncharacteristically candid discussion about its pro desktop roadmap, you have three options if you’re in the market for a new machine: Wait unti later this year for the new iMacs, wait for next year’s new Mac Pro, or abandon ship and move to Windows.
Losing Mac Pro Users
Odds are Apple is concerned too many users are choosing option three and wants to stop those losses. Considering Mac Pro sales make up a single digit percentage of overall Mac sales, it’s interesting that the company is openly committing to the pro desktop market like this instead of quietly letting the product die.
Based on the current pro user sentiment this redesigned Mac Pro better be out of the park amazing, especially since we have to wait another year before seeing it. Hopefully today’s move wasn’t too little too late.