Insights Into Apple’s Vision for the New Mac Pro

| Editorial

Over the years, Apple slipped into the idea that there is not much separation between the iMac and the Mac Pro in terms of overall performance. Now, with the new Mac Pro, we're seeing a renewed commitment to the pro philosophy for professionals in video, photography, music and even science. It truly is the super Mac in the style of Lamborghini super cars. But it will also cost you.


Contrary to my prediction of a starting price of US$2499, the new Mac Pro starts at $2999. That's the low end model with a 3.7 GHz E5 Xeon quad core processor, 12 GB of RAM, dual D300 FirePros and 256 GB of PCIe-based flash storage. There will also be options for 6, 8 and 12 core models which will be considerably more expensive, but happily paid for by professionals who aren't spending their personal money.

Image Credit: TMO/Dave Hamilton

For example, according to Apple, there is "a 3.5 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz, dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of VRAM each, 16GB of memory, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage starting at $3,999." One can easily imagine where it goes from there, especially with a terabyte of internal storage.

As Apple's press release says, "Apple today redefined pro computing with the launch of the all-new Mac Pro."


All of a sudden, the idea that if you have a little bit of extra money, you can have the fastest Mac goes out the window. In practice, you're going to have to have a real commercial need for this Mac, and that could be viewed by some as a risky proposition. Or sour grapes.

Image credit: TMO/Dave Hamilton

However, recall all the articles that I and others wrote about how when a car company builds a halo car, a super car, price is not a big consideration. The idea is to build the very best, and that puts the super car beyond the price of most customers. On the other hand, it's a testament to what can be done and the company's vision to build the very best.

These super cars are flagship cars that confer prestige on the maker, and that will be the same with the Mac Pro. That's what we hoped Apple would do -- instead of sinking into total consumerism.

But I think there's more than building a high end UNIX workstation class desktop computer. I think it's hidden in plain sight by Phil Schiller's comment:

[This is our] Vision: The future of the pro desktop.

I can't help but think about how that makes every other PC on the planet right now not up to snuff and a second rate product. We may be in the post-PC era, but PCs are still being sold. Why not take a big bite out of the high end of the PCs, leverage Apple's enormous manufacturing expertise, capture all the PC market profits, and leave the botton of the no-profit market to others. I think that will offset concerns about this being a low volume product because no other PC company has the will or the means to compete with this Mac Pro.

My view is that the new flagship Mac Pro is everything we wanted it to be and designed for the right kinds of customers. You can't ask for more than that.

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Professionals can write this off. It’s not like we OWN a computer anyway. If you look at it like it’s a LEASE of state of the art hardware that will expire in X months
(Moore’s Law effect?) - it makes a little more sense.
The internal storage is all SSD? That internal 1TB potential is SSD only, right?


The internal storage is all SSD? That internal 1TB potential is SSD only, right?</blockquote>

Yep. I don’t know if that’s 1TB of flash on a single board, or one 512GB drive next to each graphic card.


I’m sorry, it’s a beautiful cylinder (can’t use box), but Apple is killing their Pro users. They need to stop the iPhonification of the Pro products and bring back expandable/upgradable systems.

I’m really surprised that Greenpeace hasn’t jumped on this, as Apple shortening the effectively life of the Pro systems and creating more eWaste.

You can tell they’ve gotten negative feedback, by how often they use the word “expandable” and keep trying to drill it into our brains….


For what it’s worth, an online inflation calculator just told me that $3,000 today is $2,361.00 in 2003 dollars. I remember paying about $2,000 for a blue & white G3 in the late 90s. Maybe the price of the new Mac Pro isn’t so bad after all.


I think this is going to sell really well. And I could imagine once PCI-E 3.0 / 4.0, Thunderbolt , improves into requiring less lane. ( Getting all the Thunderbolt working without so many PCI-E lanes )
This may filter through from a High End Professional Machine to a Prosumer Machines.

One that is fitted with Xeon E3, And Single Graphics Card, could dramatically reduce this price to entry point of $1999 or even lower.

I assume when that day arrives, ( should be in 3 years time ), the iMac and Macbook will start the transition to ARM CPU.


Being in the video biz, I was reading up on DIT’s in the TV and Film industries. These guys use the very latest kit, Sony monitors costing £5k etc etc. Almost all of them use a Mac, for interfacing with Blackmagic and AJA gear. So they all said that the new MacPro would be first on their shopping list, one guy even said he’d be buying two, one for safety.
The point being, if your salary is in the 100k pa region, 3 or 4k on a very fast computer is nothing. None of them use internal storage, except for the OS. They use RAID’s, hard drives and SSD’s.
If i was paid a bit more, I’d buy one too.
So even though Apple may not sell a ton of these, they will sell well in the professional market.


Spot on analysis and conclusions, in my view, John.

If I buy one or more of these, and the issue has been raised amongst some of my team members for extraordinary data modelling usage, then it will be on grant money, and we’d likely go all in on specs. Afterall, if you’re going to buy a Ferrari or a McLaren, then why stop at the base model?

I see this as no contest in the medical data modelling world, given that so many of my data modelling colleagues use UNIX to begin with, as opposed to the developing world, which remains largely Windows-centric, and almost slavishly so. Apple have set a new standard, which the low-margin Windows OEMs will be hard pressed to follow, though I suspect they’ll have to try.

Does anyone else notice a similarity between the morphology of the Mac Pro and the nacelles on the Enterprise? The thing looks as if it could power the ship into warp.


Pragmatic observers realized the cost of its internals and banked on a higher starting price, and I was dead wrong: I guessed that Apple would have an entry price comparable to the current (former) Mac Pro to better entice the prosumer segment, but nope…

Personally, the new Mac Pro is a sort of lust object for me, but realistically - while it certainly is a higher price of entry, justifiably because this thing is A BEAST - even my seven year old Mac Pro is keeping up fine with my graphics work; for me it would be a major expense without major gains in productivity. When you tack on the added cost of adapters for my older peripherals and a still-nascent Thunderbolt market, it’s just too much money, and too soon for me. Hopefully as this new generation settles into the market, Apple will eventually start bringing the price down a bit as they’ve done with many other products. By then, I should be ready for it.


I’d guessed a 3K starting price. Even the look and the presentation screamed This Is Special. And then there are, what, *six* thunderbolt ports! And every other bit is cutting edge. Had to be 3k. (Couldn’t be more, these days, though in the past there has been 6k Macs.)


I’m still waiting to see what those FirePro cards are capable of, and whether AMD gets the OpenCL issues with 3d render systems fixed. The iMac with a 780M may well give me more bang for my buck than the Mac Pro, if games, blender and 1080p After Effects are the three biggest resource hogs.

I do still hold out hope that the graphic cards are proprietary, not irreplaceable. After the RAM and HD, that’s the part most likely to cause obsolescence in my system.

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