7 Reasons For Apple to Discontinue the Mac Pro

| Editorial

Recently, I took a philosophical tour of the idea that Apple might well want to discontinue some products that we’ve become fond of. The pros and cons. One reader asked what the pros would be to sending the Mac Pro into extinction. I’ll try to answer that question.

In response to: “The Pros and Cons of Legacy Apple Products Going Extinct,” reader BradMacPro wrote:

So what is the “pro” to Apple discontinuing the Mac Pro? I only see “con”s.

We know the cons. I’ve written about them extensively. But, I think it’s worthwhile to look at the pros from a surmise of Apple’s perspectives.

2013 Mac Pro

The glorious 2013 Mac Pro. Doomed from the start?

However, before I do that, I want to preface my remarks with the notion that Apple may well have a new Mac Pro in the works. The company has taken enormous heat for allowing the 2013 Mac Pro to linger on without an update. And there’s been much discussion of how Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are hungry to take the creative and technical professional business away from Apple. Will Apple allow that? If I were to guess, however, I’d say that Apple is planning to discontinue the Mac Pro line. My hope is that I’m wrong.

Without repeating the arguments for the defendants (us), let’s consider why Apple would, perhaps, like to abandon the Mac Pro.

Arguments for the Plaintiff

1. Rethinking the Mac Pro is painful. Apple would have to take a bit of a step backwards. Certain functionality and expandability would have to return to make the professionals happy. Apple likes to always move foreward with style and avoid embarrassment. Imagine the howls over a 2017 Mac Pro with nothing but six USB-C ports.

2. Catering to the Pros? The pros make their living with their computers. They have needs. Technical professionals expect Apple to appear at their favored conferences, mix with them, listen to and respond to their needs. Unfortunately, “design by Ive” often trumps geeky technical needs from individuals, even widely respected ones. That Apple will tell you what you need doesn’t go over well in some circles.

3. Sales by desire, not checkboxes. Technical professionals aren’t impressed by feel-good advertising. They like to have sales reps who are technically deep and who have enough clout to help solve their problems. But those field sales people must be exceptional: both politically astute and technical. They are rare. For the mothership to dwell on industry accepted, technical details that make or break a product for the scientist or engineer is an alien idea. Apple prefers to excite the average consumer with how cool a product is and deal with consumers in a more controlled way in the retail stores.

4. ROI. Apple relentlessly leaves low profit products behind. The Mac Pro accounts for, I’m guessing, a percent of Apple’s total Mac sales. And yet, there’s an entire factory dedicated ot it in Austin. Do the sales justify the investment in time, continued expertise, and human resources? Is the creative/technical professional market greatly lucrative? Not by the scale of iPhone sales.

5. Enterprise Depth. Apple has never been deep with enterprise technologies. Over the years, Apple has gotten away from the Xserve and XsreveRAID, Apple.com/science, server technologies and many of the geeky UNIX features of macOS that made it beloved in professional circles. Apple recognizes that there are companies with vast expertise in the enterprise it can never compete with: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft. Better to partner in key areas, as with IBM, than go toe-to-toe.

6. Mobility. The world has gone mobile. iPhones can be backed up to the cloud. It’s so easy. A Mac Pro, and its OS, need serious expansion and corresponding backup capabilities. That’s a harder job. Apple’s inattention to Time Machine reflects a lack of spirit when it comes to robust backups. But perhaps the planning for APFS meant that Time Machine wasn’t worth investing in.  I might be projecting.

“Sorry, that display isn’t for sale. but the $3,000 computer from 2013 is.” Cough!

7. Displays and desktops. Apple is out of the display business. It’s currently somewhat of an uncomfortable presentation in the Apple retal stores when a discontinued Thunderbolt display (from 2011) must be placed next to a 2013 Mac Pro. But, then again, a 2017 Mac Pro would, of course, be paired with an LG UltraFine 5K display. If Apple promotes LG as the big screen companion for the MacBook Pros, then it would follow they’d be happy with the same Mac Pro pairing in their stores. Still, the black cylinder remains an ugly duckling, out of sync with the jazz of the retail stores and not of much interest to the consumer crowd.

So those are the reasons I think Apple might be thinking about letting the Mac Pro line go extinct.  Of course, there are many more reasons not to, but that’s a different article.

12 Comments Add a comment

  1. Yes the current Mac Pro is a dead end. The biggest thing I hear from my friends is that it has no expansion space. A snarl of cables and drives stacked on the floor is not expansion space. They want slots. Slots for drives. Slots for cards. Even if Apple took the current chassis and put the latest Xeon processor, or four, in it, and replaced all the ports with Thunderbolt 3 USB-Cs, it’s still a weird form that limits what you can do with it.

    And like mvallance said, the top iMac is currently more powerful. It’s embarrassing.

    Apple needs to decide if it wants to stay in the Pro world. If they don’t then stop pretending and discontinue the current Mac Pro. If they do it’s time to replace it with a real Pro machine. A machine with slots for six or eight drives, up to four Xeon processors, at least four 16x PCIe slots, and space for all the RAM anyone could want. That’s a Pro machine.

    It’s time for Apple to s*** or get off the pot.

  2. Doug Petrosky

    Totally disagree! Nobody wants “slots” except for the two that the pro has for video cards. They could allow for a couple 2.5″ drives along with the current SSD options to make some massive fusion drive but if you really need pro storage external Raid boxes are totally reasonable. Spec bump the CPU’s and GPU’s and make sure that third parties willing to deal with the thermal constraints can easily make video cards and it would get people excited again.

    Better yet make a Core iSeries version of it with some consumer graphics cards and maybe some retro iMac plastic color shells to push this into the Gamer/prosumer level.

    As for the reasons to abandon? Backup? are you serious? TimeMachine is not perfect but it blows away the windows options. And if Apple can’t compete in hardware with Dell, HP and Microsoft they have bigger problems. I’ll agree that Cook doesn’t understand the importance of bragging rights to the bottom line but someone could wake him up.

    Bottom line Apple needs to lets it’s designers make killer hardware to maintain it’s image as a premium brand.

  3. I think that internal disk storage expansion should not be an issue with a new Mac Pro. I have been using network attached storage for many years and SAN technology works. The main issue is that the GPU market moves too fast. No one can live with a GPU that might have been good 3+ years ago. Make a machine with at least 2 x 16 PCI/E Gen 3 slots for off the shelf GPUs Add a couple of M.2 standard slots and maybe a couple of places for 2.5 inch SSD and I would be happy. The issue is that Apple hates or refuses to make things that have “Standard” parts. I personally hate the appliance mentality that all Apple modern computers have. It leads to less longevity in the product.

    There was an artist conception of the machine I described above and Mac Observer did an article about it. I wish it actually existed.

    –Rick–

  4. John – Nice article. Sadly the Mac Pro may not be long for this world. The current Mac Pro (aka nMP) has never really sat right with me and I never felt compelled enough to buy one.

    If Apple put something together similar to the original Mac Pro (aka cMP) in a tower format with expansion, I think professionals/power users would rejoice (…although not sure they would buy it in enough numbers to make a difference).

    As of now, I like many have managed to keep my 2009 Mac Pro pretty competitive and still going strong. It’s pretty amazing that after 8 years, my cMP machine is almost as fast the current nMP. Here are the stats on my classic Mac Pro (4,1 upgraded to 5,1 firmware, 2xQuad upgraded to 2×6 Cores (12 cores total) possible with 5,1 firmware, 8GB 1066 RAM upgraded to 64GB 1333 RAM, PCI-express Card with AHCI M.2 Samsung 512GB as boot and scratch drive in 16x slot, 16X Blu-Ray, 10TB Skyhawk in Bay, Nvidia GTX970 4GB Video Card in 16x slot, Drobo Pro (8bay) with 20TB, USB3 card, Samsung 4K 40′ Curved Screen, C920 Webcam, MX Master Mouse, Apple Wireless Keyboard). Btw, my cMP is close to silent.

    ….I hope that Apple considers a pretty tower design with expansion for a new Mac Pro….but alas it probably won’t happen….

  5. Apple has royally f’d up their desktop offerings. If you want a Mac Pro, prepare to shell out $2500+ for a four year old machine with dated ports & components. iMacs are a good option, but if you want a matching monitor for dual screens? SOL, buddy. Or you could consider MacBook Pro: a $2500+ machine that was too focused on thinness and gimmicks than being an actual PRO computer; useless features in closed case mode and obscenely priced in spite of its glaring 16gb max.

    For f’s sake Apple, do you give a damn about your pro customers or not? Start making computers that meet people’s expectations, or sell off that division to another company that isn’t so distracted by shiny hand held gadgets.

  6. Xwintelslave

    If Apple is really questioning its commitment to (pro-level) desktop computing, perhaps it should license macOS to third-party hardware manufacturers, like it did over two decades ago. As part of the licensing agreement, I could see Apple exercising some degree over quality control, and perhaps even keep its hand in developing the OS, so there’s consistency of experience across desktop systems.

  7. There is a need for Mac Pro, as in Mac that is powerful, self serviceable in both professional Desktop Niche, and Server rack. For Pros, those are mainly Video Editing and CG Graphics, where their CPU and GPU Processing requirement continue to increase. Other Pros uses like Photoshop, 2D Design, Web Dev etc may already have reached a stage where CPU and GPU dont matter.

    Then there is the Mac being used in Rack, which is a space continue with increase usage.

    I have a suspicious feeling that Apple is waiting for Ryzen to Reintroduce iMac and Mac Pro. One due to Ryzen offer decent Single Thread performance and Double the Core, two due to it supporting ECC memory without going to Xeon.

    You will have up to 8 Core on an iMac, and 16 / 32 Core for Mac Pro. With Vega Graphics.

  8. Apple should make a brand new Mac Pro and Mac mini. Besides brand new Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps) display 24-inch with USB 3.1 Type-C (reversible) Generation 2 (10 Gbps). The All-in-One iMac is a waste and Earth aggression, since computers may last seven years, but displays last more than 20.

  9. There is definitely a need for Mac Pro. With so much video assets and photo assets, I am not sure any level iMac can do the job. Also they should be looking at either the same type cabinet with openable slots where we can simply push in a SATA drive or slot in a PCIe SSD. Or a circular platform with space in the base for additional PCIe SSD or SATA drives and the Mac Pro sits on top of it with shared power and ventilation. Or you can stack up such bases. Many decent options in my opinion. Wait and see what they will come up with. I am sure they will. They simply can’t afford to concede this to Windows world especially after holding the fort for such a long time for upmarket video/photo editing.

    My gripe is about the Mac mini more. Why cant they make a Mac mini the same size as the Apple TV and make it plug into the Apple TV to view through TV if required. Even better, provide an Apple TV app for remoting into the Mac mini which sits right below the Apple TV.

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