Apple Will Likely Let the 2013 Mac Pro Quietly Die

| Editorial

There was a time when Apple was into powerful headless Macs for technical professionals. Those who wanted their own multiple displays and great expandability. Lately, Apple seems to have lost interest in that market and focussed on mobility. There is a smattering of hopeful signs, the weight of evidence is that the Mac Pro is headed for the annals of Apple history.

A New Mac Pro: Pros

There are just a few hopeful signs that we’ll get a refresh of the Mac Pro. The most notorious is the discovery by Pike’s Universum in late 2015 that a kext plist made a reference to a new model identifier, “AAPLJ95,1.” The current 2013 Mac Pro is codenamed “AAPLJ90,1”. Reference in the plist is made to 10 USB 3.0 ports. That’s what we might expect to see in a powerful, headless desktop.

However, a year later, we’d expect USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, so perhaps that code was for an older prototype that, clearly, never went into production.

Apple's aging Mac Pro with discontinued Thunderbolt display

2013 Mac Pro. The oh-so beautiful, but “ugly black duckling” still for sale. At full price.

Recently, our Bryan Chaffin suggested that Apple’s use of the event tagline “hello again” could represent a reinvigoration of Apple’s commitment to the Macintosh line. “Apple ‘hello again’ Media Invites Suggest Reintroduction of Mac Product Line.” Apple has been taking some heat recently, from many circles, for its inattention to the entire Mac line. Our appetite is thoroughly whetted.

A not so great scenario would be if Tim Cook and Phil Schiller come out and give us a 1) new MacBook Pros 2) Updated MacBook Airs, and maybe a A10x-based 12.9-inch iPad Pro with all the display niceties of its smaller sibling. Then stop. We’d be left hanging, wondering what Apple’s commitment is to the entire Mac line for professionals and consumers alike. The beatings would continue.

Understanding the effect this would have, feeling some heat from customers and the competition hot on its heels, Apple may have decided, during this long respite, to breathe new life into the Mac line. To make the wait worth it. On September 9th, Tim Cook responded to a MacRumors email: “I love the Mac and we are very committed to it. Stay tuned.”

But does that refer to unbridled enthusiasm for the entire Mac line? Or perhaps just the ones in use by a subset of the customers: The notebooks and iMacs. The use of the Steve Jobs phrase “stay tuned” could mean that Apple is finally ready to surprise and delight us after a long period of stellar engineering development.

2013 Mac Pro

The last of its kind?  It was a great ride.

A New Mac Pro: Cons

Back in June of 2013 when the current Mac Pro was announced at WWDC, Apple was still catering to technical professionals. The previous “cheese grater” Mac Pro was a professional’s dream. Lots of drive bays and slots. Lots of power and fans. Industrial strength. The 2013 Mac Pro disappointed many who sought a certain technical path for upgrades, but it, at least, punctuated Apple’s passion for continuing the pro, headless desktop.

Since then, however, several things have happened. Apple discontinued its Thunderbolt display without replacing it. That sends a message that headless Macs may be endangered.

Next, Final Cut Pro X 10.2 hasn’t been updated in 18 months. (Although 10.3 was recently, accidentally divulged.) The last update to Aperture was 24 months ago and development has been discontinued. For some insights, see: “Everything you need to know about Apple’s decision to kill Aperture and iPhoto.” The point is that Apple has done nothing conspicuous to reverse the notion, from 2014, that it is losing interest in the professional market. This colors my expectations.

For example, one outward sign that would have telegraphed a clear, positive message would have been to release a new 2015 version of the Mac Pro with upgraded Xeon processors (for example, the Xeon E3-1200 V4 Broadwell) and new GPUs. However, one could argue that Apple was waiting for Thunderbolt 3 support.

Even so, whatever happend to the days of upgrading Macs incrementally? Why do we have to wait years and years for Apple to refresh some Macs these days? Is it too much trouble to reassure the professional community with frequent hardware upgrades? Hardware upgrades are the surest way to provide warm fuzzies and allow customers to plan intelligently

We haven’t received any of those warm fuzzies.

The Mac Pro Verdict

This long delay could mean that Apple has been working on an exciting new vision for Macs and how they interoperate with our iPads and iPhones. That will probably entail the thoroughly rumored Skylake-based MacBook Pro, perhaps an upgraded MacBook Air, new iMacs, perhaps a new 27-inch 5K display with internal graphics for the underpowered notebooks and FCPX 10.3. We’d be pleased, but not out of our minds.

However, what if Apple, on October 27th, were to announce, in addition to all the above, a fabulous new “Late 2016” Mac Pro, kept secret in the bowels of Austin, Texas. We’d be all shocked, surprised and delighted. Consider that re-imagined Mac Pro with a 50 teraflops of computational power connected to a LG manufactured, Apple branded 38-inch ultrawide curved display.

LG's new 38-inch display is a great match for Apple's Mac Pro

LG’s new model 38uc99 38-inch curved display, in Apple branding, would be a perfect desktop partner. Image credit: LG

It would take our breath away. We’d go out of our minds. Shall Cook’s Apple settle for anything less?

Apple’s track record and the pessimist in me say I fantasize too much. I think the weight of evidence is that, instead, the 2013 Mac Pro will just be left to linger and die quietly.

Stay tuned.

18 Comments Add a comment

  1. If they kill it, what will happen to those Mac Pros already in the channel? They can’t sell an orphaned product at the prices they’re at now. If the price drops significantly on the ones that are left, I may buy one. Then again, it’s been languishing so long that there may not be very many out there. Maybe they just won’t be available after next week.

  2. The ship has sailed! I hope that there would be a new Mac pro. I held onto my Grater 2009 pro as long as I could (in fact I still use the 27 inch Cinema display at home). I passed on the new Mac Pro as I had 4 drives in old one, and had upgraded the Video card as much as I could. I eventually sold it and transitioned to the display and a MacBook Retina 15 maxed out.

    Now I think “Consumer” is the Apple way. Also “Closed” and “Contained” are they way their hardware is designed these days. No user replaceable parts, no expansion, very few options. This is at odds with how I view a Pro level machine.

    Sadly I say “The Mac Pro is Dead” And I hope next week I can add the rest of the traditional phrase “Long Live the Mac Pro!”

  3. I just had a thought. Suppose they roll out a whole new line of Macs, from laptops to all in ones, but drop the Pro moniker. The 12″ Macbook would be joined by a 13″ and 15″ models. The iMac would be an iMac, or possibly just be called the Macintosh. The MacPro would quietly disappear, but you could buy a Macintosh with a lot more power just in a different case. Similarly Pro means little on the iPad. They could drop it and just have 7″, 9.7″ and 12″ iPads.

    Apple might be going back to the old nomenclature where all of their machines are Macs, and if you want there would be enough power in the upper end of each line for the professional engineer/animator/film maker/scientist. Remember the Macintosh IIci. It was the Pro machine of its day, without the name. The SE/30 similarity. Calling some Macs “Pro” machines is a competitively recent innovation.

  4. Chazaska

    And what of Apple’s investment in that advanced new manufacturing process for the MacPro, not to mention all the Made in USA hoopla? Hard to imagine they would have taken such a major leap for a one-off product. Despite their almost 100% consumer product focus, I remain hopeful.

  5. Chazaska writes “And what of Apple’s investment in that advanced new manufacturing process for the MacPro, not to mention all the Made in USA hoopla? Hard to imagine they would have taken such a major leap for a one-off product. Despite their almost 100% consumer product focus, I remain hopeful.”

    As geoduck says suppose that they go back to old ways with the option of ordering a more powerful CPU and such. That is the currently the case to a limited extent though they could offer greatly faster CPUs and much more RAM. Something needs to be done with the number of ports, perhaps Apple branded hubs

    Oh and for the love God can they put the audio port on the front or at least the side. Be it a 3.5, or whatever.

  6. Jeez, to me the Mac tower has always been a subset almost literally saying “I do shit with this Mac” from killing it on Avid or Digidesign, MOTU or in the visual Quark,Aldus,Freehand,Pshop, sheeit – even Kai’s Power Tools – this was the ammo we’d throw at those Microsloth clones.
    But when my bud’s studio here in Hollywood that does trailers for the top and I mean Spielberg type top – I’ve met all my heroes through out partnership in Mac crime – did NOT upgrade to the ash can I knew the jig was up. The thing was one of the first Macs designed with ZERO pro ergonomics in mind vis a vis cables and cards and external pro gear!! And, as far as grunt good news/bad news depending on Apple/Customer his previous newest Macs still ran the external cards that run Avid HD stuff just fine.
    The great news for all you guys is that if Timmy kills the tower (and I don’t think he will) as joining member #763 (i think) I will never post again here. I know I know, You’ll really miss me being a pissed off nitwit lo these years but hey, it was fun, I’m just not a “mobile toy” guy.

  7. PSMacintosh

    The Mac Pro “Cylinder” was an obvious design failure from the start.

    What idiot (Ivy?) designs a costly computer for sophisticated professional users without easy access to upgrade slots and add-in slots and with lots of ports, excellent ventilation, and perhaps even a rack-mountable configuration?

    Instead, they made it beautiful, but not functional.
    It’s like making a gold hammer.

    Of all the computer user types, Professionals want functionality over beauty everyday all day long. If you can make it beautiful as well, OK. Otherwise, they don’t care about beauty!
    They want a hard-working, powerful tool that can keep up with them and move into the future.

    The Mac Pro “Cylinder” was everything that they didn’t want. That designer FAILED at his/her basic job–supply the target audience with what they want and need. Most people would have been FIRED!!!

  8. PSMacintosh

    If Apple makes a new Mac Pro, it needs to be FUNCTIONAL to the hilt.
    If they are not going to do that, then they should abandon the effort.

    But they SHOULD make a new Mac Pro.
    The Graphic Design industry (and other science and art industries) are what built up Apple in the first place. If Apple abandons the very people who built it, what does that say about what they will do to their current users in the future.

    Wow!
    We will LEARN a lot on Oct 24th.

  9. There was some speculation that Apple was designing their own Data Center servers. This could lead to a more powerful Mac mini. This form factor has already been incorporated into a racked solution by some third parties such as Doreo Hosting. This would be great for our new WebSonar Libraries coming soon.

  10. I think the ship has sailed on a new MacPro or any pro mac workstation. Apple has been bleeding its pro base for years since 2012 when it switched to a more consumer/iOS focus, so it seems a bit late that they would try to appeal to the pro market again. But I could see them coming out with some sort of cloud-acceleration / cloud-computing service ala HP’s RGS or Xbox’s Microsoft Cloud (Crackdown), where some of the processing gets handed off to the cloud, essentially turning your MacBook into a workstation.

    Working in the post production industry, in 2014, I noticed many post houses phase out their cheese graters for HP workstations switching from FCP 7 to Premiere. They had already been switching to HP for years for their Avids, as Avid was being slow on its Mac updates to compete with FCP. FCP 7 was the reason to have a mac editing suite but when FCP X came out, Premiere instantly filled that void, without requiring Mac hardware. The MacPro cyclinders didn’t help either, less I think because of their non-upgradeability, but because they use AMD FirePro cards with undersupported OpenCL hardware acceleration, as opposed to Nvidia’s CUDA. Not having a CUDA option on the MacPro cylinders was a breaking point for me and many of my colleges who need it for apps like Octane, not to mention it being better supported by Adobe. It was why after 20 years of being Mac-only, I ended up building my own PC workstation that is faster and half the price of a MacPro. It sucks to be on Windows, but Apple gave me no choice.

    Right now I need to upgrade my 2011 MacBookPro. I’m really hoping the upcoming refresh will be worth it and not make me abandon Apple all together.

  11. Dudemeister

    FCP X hasn’t been updated for EIGHTEEN MONTHS??!! LOL! Talk about ultra-crappy research!! It’s just barely been six months and before that it was never more than four months between updates, mostly three!! The only reason it’s taken longer this time around, is because it’s a major re-write with new features and functionality that are geared almost exclusively to “pros”, whatever that even means anymore today… so so much for that tired, nonsensical blather.

    Maybe actually know what you’re talking about before you write it?? Never mind that the whole pathetic “Apple doesn’t care about pros!” whining is getting SO old. Someone call a waaaaaaaahmbulance!!

  12. ~The Mac Pro “Cylinder” was an obvious design failure from the start.~

    Could it be that it was set up to fail? To me it was almost like the Mac Pro last Hurrah type design. Apple thought, ‘if we can make it work with this design, fine, if we can’t, at least it went out with a bang’.

  13. @geoduck

    I think you are on the right track with the naming conventions. Apple is shedding the “i” moniker from their line, slowly but surely, except for the ones that use iOS.

    iMac makes no real sense anymore, and it’s been a long time since there was an iBook. The question will be what the lines actually look like at the end of it all, and whether there will be a headless, high powered version of the Mac line.

  14. MikeSmoke

    One thing often overlooked is how on top of the game Apple has been with maintaining and advancing Logic Pro X. What’s more, you don’t need the latest greatest hardware to use this and use it professionally. The Pro market is dying faster than pro hardware. Recording studios in my area have closed down faster than Sports Authority and Circuit City.

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