Mac Pro: R.I.P.

Apple’s Mac Pro is dead. May it rest in peace.

It’s not literally dead. At least not yet.

You can still buy one. And, apparently, enough people continue to do so that Apple retains the desktop behemoth in its catalog. I should know. I bought a 2009 Mac Pro this year. And I have been delighted with the purchase. It was a huge improvement over my aging Power Mac G5 in every way. From its welcome silence (compared to the jet plane sounds that the G5 loved to imitate) to its blazing speed, it has been a great machine.

Still. The Mac Pro is dead. May it rest in peace.

Macworld’s review of the new 27-inch iMac concludes that the iMac is overall faster than the Xeon Mac Pro (even the 8-core version). Especially when you consider that a Mac Pro requires the purchase of a separate monitor, the iMac emerges with another advantage: it is much much cheaper. Rob Griffiths compared a Core i7 iMac to a similarly-equipped Quad-core Mac Pro: the Pro cost nearly twice as much.

Given these numbers, why bother with a Mac Pro? Personally, I can only think of one and half reasons — neither of which will drive a large number of sales. The one reason is internal expandability. If you want three internal hard drives and two internal optical drives and an upgraded graphics card, you need a Mac Pro. The half reason is the display. The iMac has a great display. But if you want more flexibility, including the option to replace your initial display without having to get a new computer, you may prefer a Mac Pro. 

For at least the next several years, I expect the market for the Mac Pro to remain. There will always be some people for whom the Mac Pro is the best fit. But their numbers will continue to decline. As with the old minicomputers that desktop computers replaced, all brands of large desktop computers (not just the Mac Pro) are destined to be phased out over time.

The Mac Pro is dead. May it rest in peace.

There was a time when the Mac Pro (or its desktop ancestors) was the go-to choice for running Mac OS X Server. Not so much anymore. Xserve has been Apple’s “ultimate workgroup server” for several years now. For those with less demanding server needs, you can now get a Mac mini with Mac OS X Server preinstalled for just $999.

Actually, as the Mac mini’s tech specs continue to improve, the standard Mac mini is closing in on the Mac Pro as a viable alternative for anyone who prefers a headless Mac.

The Mac Pro is dead. May it rest in peace.

There is one more major force working against the Pro: portability. Increasingly, Mac users of all stripes are leaning towards smaller and more portable machines. That’s one reason the MacBook Pro continues to be the star of Apple’s Mac lineup.

In fact, recognizing that more and more owners have a MacBook Pro as their only computer, but may still want a larger display at home, Apple has promoted docking a MacBook Pro to a 24” Cinema Display. You’ll see these two items featured and connected together on Apple’s Cinema Display Web page. With this setup, if you close the MacBook Pro’s lid and connect a separate keyboard/mouse, you’ve converted your MacBook Pro into a viable desktop Mac. It’s just about a case of having your cake and eating it too.

It doesn’t stop there. The overall trend in personal computers keeps moving toward greater portability. Many (obviously not all) people are finding that even an iPhone can function as a full-time alternative to a laptop. Apple’s expected “iTablet” should help further the trend to downsize from laptops. In this environment, the odds are against the survival of a device so big that it generally has to sit on the floor instead of a desk.

What do you have when you put all of these varied pieces together? An attack on the Mac Pro from all sides. So far, the Mac Pro has fought off these assaults. But I predict its days are numbered. That’s why I say…

The Mac Pro is dead. May it rest in peace.