First, the good news: Apple announced plans to release a completely redesigned version of the Mac Pro. Now the bad news: you won’t see it until at least 2018. But professional Mac users can sleep soundly in the knowledge that Apple understands their frustrations.
Why else would the company invite a group of reporters to its headquarters yesterday to update the world on a product it doesn’t plan to release for at least another year? Apple seems to understand that it has a major perception problem when it comes to professional users, and can't afford to ignore the issue until an official product announcement sometime in 2018.
Not Built for Modern Workloads
The current version of the Mac Pro was released in 2013. At the time, the company thought it was making a bold statement with the unusual form factor that looked more like a cylindrical Bluetooth speaker than a professional desktop machine. But instead of representing a great leap forward for the company’s pro users, the current incarnation of the Mac Pro is now closer to a dead end.
A large part of that is likely the fault of the internal architecture, the company admitted to reporters yesterday. Apple designers had gambled on an architectural plan designed to accommodate two smaller GPUs (graphics processing units), rather than a single larger one. Not necessarily a bad idea in principal, but that wasn’t how the industry evolved.
Instead, designs and workloads have moved toward relying on one larger GPU. Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi acknowledged to reporters that the current design was inadequate for professional users whose workloads depended on running on a single GPU or single-threaded CPU (central processing unit) performance. Certain scientific workloads require a single GPU, and heavy 3D graphics or VR applications can also be taxing for two smaller GPUs, Federighi said.
A Move to Modular
However, the Mac Pro’s architecture made it difficult for the company to reconfigure the machine along the lines that their customers required. In particular, while the desktop’s triple chassis design was well-equipped to disperse the heat generated by two lower-power graphics chips, it couldn’t handle the thermal output generated by a single, massive GPU.
That left Apple with a device that didn't serve the needs of many of its professional customers. Apple was also unable to upgrade future versions while remaining true to the original design. As a result, the Mac Pro has received little in the way of significant upgrades to its specifications. After four years on the market, the Pro has now fallen dramatically behind its competitors in the professional space.
But Apple said that it's already hard at work on redesigning the Mac Pro. Although the company did not reveal any major details, executives did say the next model will be much more modular than the current version to better facilitate future upgrades. The new modular architecture will also include a new Pro display, something Apple has shied away from in the past.