Designing the New Mac Pro: An Awesome Design Concept

| John Martellaro's Blog

Many people have great hopes and aspirations for Apple's forthcoming Mac Pro, promised by CEO Tim Cook. We tend to express our very best hopes for the spirit of Apple in the Mac Pro, and recently I explored that topic. In this Part 2, we take a look at an amazing concept by Peter Zigich that brilliantly expresses those hopes.

Recently, I wrote an article that explored the ideas of what a Mac Pro should be and some of the possible technologies that Apple might use. For example, Intel's roadmap for the Ivy Bridge-E closely tracks the wording Mr. Cook previously used. The article was: "Designing the New Mac Pro: Technologies & Wishes."

In that blog entry, I also alluded to a design concept by Peter Zigich that expresses, in design language, the advances made possible by the technology of 2013. That includes a smaller case and a modular design that would allow the user to elegantly add capability to a compact base model.

A terrific modular design concept for afforability & expansion.

Recently, Mr. Zigich (Toronto, ON, Canada)  alerted me to his second installment where goes into considerably more graphic detail. What's interesting about this design concept is that while it may not have the imprimatur of a complete electrical and thermal simulation, it is eminently reasonable based on the current Mac Pro's physical design and looks to have a rational extrapolation  of new technology to a practical design a decade after the original Power Mac G5 was launched.

Here is a close-up view of the outside with dimensions: WxDXH = 23 x 28 x 22 cm and estimated weight of 6 kg empty.

Three Thunderbolt ports, four USB 3 ports.

And here is awesome detail of the inside with slots for four HDD/SSDs, 6 RAM slots and 3 PCI 3.0 slots. By making the case much smaller, only one outer case fan is envisioned.

Power supply on top where it can radiate into metal.

One of the things that makes this design, with a smaller enclosure, possible is speculation that Apple might switch to a low-power ARM CPU. The design concept describes a hypothetical low power "A10" with a CPU assembly that could contain up to 32 cores. This would make it a veritable supercomputer, but I should emphasize that CPU design, electrical and thermal considerations would dictate whether such a design could be brought into practical production.

Also, so far as I know, ARM architectures do not currently support virtual machine hardware as the current, advanced Intel CPUs do. That's required to be able to run apps like Parallels Desktop or VMware's Fusion. Presumably, Apple could add that kind of hardware to a future ARM design.

Up to 8 A10's with total of 32 cores in a CPU assembly with its own fan.

What's more important about this design is the imagination of Peter Zigich driven by the Mac community's hopes and expectations for this kind of Mac. The very idea that such a Mac could exist would send shockwaves of excitement (and geek stiffys) throughout the Mac community. Engineers, developers, researchers, small businesses and computer scientists would all go into a state of frenzy not seen in years and could even radically change the nature of our perceptions of Apple in 2013.

Of course, one also expects Apple to make money on such a product and be able to sell enough of them to make the R&D worthwhile. But, the whole idea here is that Apple would produce a Mac Pro with such a high drool factor that it would all be worth the effort, both in sales and Apple's image as a leader in innovation and commitment to its technical customers.

The last thing we want, after a three year delay, is just another ho-hum product that is so uninspiring that it portends the end of the Mac Pro line.

Thanks Mr. Zigich for dreaming big and inspiring us.


Peter Zigich images used with permission.

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Gareth Harris

I disagree with your packaging. Although I like the modular idea, I believe it has to go beyond the desktop workstation target. Maybe to extend the modular idea further the modules should fit in either a desktop or rack mountable frame.

Many pro installations have to connect to a lot of other gear, often in racks. For that reason the package should be rack friendly. The architecture should also allow forlarger configurations of several machines hooked together via thunderbolt or other fast backplanes, as well as attached to other devices for operations in either media, scientific/engineering or manufacturing settings.

Gareth Harris

BTW, one more aside:

You base model is almost a cube. I still have mine. I don’t want to make it into an aquarium. Any ideas?


John, this reminds me of the Acorn RISC PC of 1994 (whose design I was involved with) which had a similar modular concept. Sold as standard with either one slice or two, but you could build as many slices as you wanted. I have a four slice still in my shed (though the motherboard failed about a year ago - 18 years old…)

We used to show an eight slice or ten slice “Rocketship” at shows which included a pizza oven in one slice…

Hope it’s of interest!

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