Apple building all-new, modular Mac Pro and external display

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The Mac Pro is being
The Mac Pro is being "completely rethought."
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple today revealed that it is planning to introduce an all-new Mac Pro and a new external display next year.

The company acknowledges that the existing Mac Pro doesn’t fulfill all the needs of its pro customers, but the new model with have a more traditional modular design that will allow Apple to “keep it fresh.”

It’s been almost four years since Apple introduced the “trash can” Mac Pro. We all figured the company was giving up on the high-end machine and professional users who required all its power, but today it finally clears the air and confirms the Mac Pro’s future.

“We are completely rethinking the Mac Pro,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, told reporters during a recent roundtable at the company’s Machine Shop hardware prototyping lab. And there will be a brand new Apple display to go with it.

“Since the Mac Pro is a modular system, we are also doing a pro display,” Schiller added. “There’s a team working hard on it right now.”

Schiller was keen to point out to reporters that the Mac business is still growing faster than the PC industry, and now boasts almost 100 million users. It is close to being a Fortune 100 company all by itself, with a value nearing $25 billion.

The vast majority of computers Apple sells (80 percent) are notebooks, but the company still recognizes pro users who need a beefy desktop.

“We care deeply about [pro users] and we’re dedicated to communicating well with them and helping them understand what we’re doing and what we’re up to,” Schiller said. “We want to be as transparent as we can… and help them as they make their buying decisions.”

“They invest so much in the Mac, we want to support them, and we care deeply about them.”

Schiller confirmed that Apple has a team “working hard” on the new Mac Pro right now, and that it will be designed “so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements.” He emphasized that the Mac Pro is a “modular” system.

“We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.”

This could signal the return to a more traditional desktop computer, which would give users the freedom to upgrade things like the processor and graphics cards as they see fit. These things are not replaceable in the current Mac Pro, and that’s an issue.

Even when it launched, the Mac Pro wasn’t as powerful as it could have been. Apple uses the kind of GPUs more commonly found in notebook computers, and they can’t compete with the dedicated video cards most consumers want in a high-end rig.

Craig Federighi, SVP of software engineering, acknowledged that while the current Mac Pro is “good for some,” it doesn’t meet the needs of the consumers Apple was trying to reach. “It served its purpose well,” added John Terrus, VP of hardware engineering. “It just doesn’t have the flexibility we now know we need to have.”

This all sounds incredibly promising, but neither the all-new Mac Pro or the external monitor that will go on sale alongside it will be available this year. Apple didn’t actually say when they would be available; we just know it won’t be in 2017.

However, Apple is launching a refreshed Mac Pro today to tide us over (read: shift more units) in the meantime. It brings faster Intel Xeon processors with more cores, and the option to add beefier AMD FirePro graphics.

Via: BuzzFeed, TechCrunch

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12 responses to “Apple building all-new, modular Mac Pro and external display”

  1. dailytut says:

    Not a big fan of Mac Pro. I am waiting for new iMac model. expecting some upgrade by this year end.

    Robin.

  2. Dan says:

    Happy to hear a more modular design is in the works! We have six trashcan Mac Pro’s which are used for 3D flyover’s and video editing. Late last year we moved to 4K and editing time took a big hit. So we needed to start looking at making a jump onto a different system as the CPU/GPU’s just couldn’t keep up with what we had.

    But the other shoe here is what our field people use! We are still using the older non-retina MacBook Pro’s!

    We need the modularity for the bigger RAM & storage they offer. How about it Apple can we get a REAL Pro’s Pro system??? We can live with a slightly bigger & heaver system if we can get the modularity. Give me Retina 15″ (I’d love a 17″ too) 32 GB, RAID 0 storage drive and a fixed boot drive for the OS & Apps with a 10 hr battery. Others have come close why can’t you??

    Lastly, lets get real with the Ports! No Dam dongles! and some sort of breakaway power connection (i.e. MagSafe)

    • Ford Prefect says:

      6 trashcan Mac Pros? Damn Apple loves you long time.

      • Dan says:

        I’m sure there are bigger setups than what we have ;-}

        In a tight open office environment they made sense. And at the time they couldn’t be beaten when put against the iMac’s. Today, it’s a bit of a coin toss between them. The number of ports makes the Mac Pro better if you need lots of high speed storage.

  3. Jaca Paladium says:

    New Pro Display means: Apple Led Cinema Display (or equivalent) is coming back ?

    • Dan says:

      I think the LG mess woke them up a bit ;-} They clearly will be offering a display size and options is still a mystery. My bet, it will be USB-C based.

  4. Furutan says:

    Pro Macs should be less about style than function. Frankly, certain characteristics of the PC approach would be worthwhile, such as a serious basic machine that can accept CPU and GPU upgrades and have adequate RAM and cards, but which can be bought semi stripped for configuring it for your needs. As for cool factor, Apple could make an expansion module that essentially snaps onto the back of the basic model and which supports all sorts of expandability. As for cards, the Mac has always been limited by niche cards. Some cards were essentially flashed Windows cards and the other cards were passible but not competitive.
    A big issue is that Macs communicate with cards in a way that is in a reverse bit order of Windows machines. This means that in order to make Windows cards plug and play, Apple has to reengineer some fundamental aspects of the Mac. Not only would this open the Mac to a huge range of options, but the options would be less expensive and more powerful. Until Apple moves away from certain proprietary technologies, top-end pros will continue to stick with PC solutions and growth of the Pro Mac market will continue to stagnate.

    • Tallest Skil says:

      Define ‘cards’ here. I’m not sure what you’re meaning.

    • Steve__S says:

      The byte order thing hasn’t been an issue since Apple move to Intel. Regardless, that was never a hardware issue and something that could be addressed in the firmware and the drivers, etc.
      Having a “modular” system with actual PCI expansion cards is the real issue and something that Apple moved away from with the current Mac Pro. Hopefully, they learned from their mistake and are moving on.

    • Dan says:

      When we first bought our new Mac Pro’s we did the math and it turns out the cost difference was very close between a similarly configured Xeon workstation. Even today (with the new configs) the cost difference is not that much!

      The root issue has been more to do with Intel lack of power in the latest versions of Xeon workstation class CPU’s than Apple!

      Yes, Apples’ limitations within both the thermal model of the system and limits of upgradability hold it back and why many people still hang onto the older series or gasp! Build hackintosh systems which allow them more options. I think the uptick of the hackintosh systems is what forced Apples’ hand here. Unless you’re a hobbyist who is willing to build and maintain a custom system your options are still very limited without spending big bucks.

  5. S C says:

    “Modular” Mac Pro… Hmmm… It needs to include expansion slots for PCIe cards. It needs to include an industry-standard SSD attach port (non-SATA, SATA is too slow), preferably two for storage redundancy. It needs to have slots for RAM expansion. It needs to include a power supply big enough to support at least two high-performance graphics cards, with direct-attach points on the PS for the video card power. It needs to have software to support the graphics cards as data coprocessors. I’m guessing that it’ll have USB 3.1 (along with the Type C connector that is part of the 3.1 standard). What would be really cool is a new keyboard that mimics the new MacBook Pro’s touchbar to go along with all of the modular stuff (yeah, I know… I’m dreaming here).

    I love my Old Mac Pros. I’ve been hanging on to them in hopes that the trash cans would get upgraded to the point that they’d be interesting to me. Now that Apple is going back to a modular design, I’m hoping to replace one or more of my aging cheese graters possibly next year with the release of the new machine.

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