Apparently, the Mac Pro isn't dead after all. It is being reported across all the Apple rumour sites that Apple has confirmed that a new Mac Pro is coming.
It is reported that Apple is building a new "modular" version of its high-end desktop computer. This, if true, has got to be good news to Mac Pro users as the existing Mac Pro 'trash-can' hasn't been updated since December 2013.
Most of the Apple rumour sites are quoting a single source, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who apparently was one of a small number of journalists who were invited to a roundtable meeting with Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller at their corporate headquarters. John Gruber says...
Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.
These next-gen Mac Pros and pro displays “will not ship this year”. (I hope that means “next year”, but all Apple said was “not this year”.) In the meantime, Apple is today releasing meager speed-bump updates to the existing Mac Pros. The $2999 model goes from 4 Xeon CPU cores to 6, and from dual AMD G300 GPUs to dual G500 GPUs. The $3999 model goes from 6 CPU cores to 8, and from dual D500 GPUs to dual D800 GPUs. Nothing else is changing, including the ports. No USB-C, no Thunderbolt 3 (and so no support for the LG UltraFine 5K display).
Apple has “great” new iMacs in the pipeline, slated for release “this year”, including configurations specifically targeted at large segments of the pro market.
At the time of writing Apple's store was still showing the existing machines and we have not seen any official announcements from Apple, so this is all still rumour.
Apparently, there were only 9 people invited to this meeting. Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and John Ternus (vice president, hardware engineering — in charge of Mac hardware) are there to speak for Apple and Bill Evans from Apple PR. The other five are writers who were invited for what was billed as “a small roundtable discussion about the Mac”: Matthew Panzarino, Lance Ulanoff, Ina Fried, John Paczkowski, and John Gruber. This meeting in itself is a departure to Apple's normal way of doing things and it looks like they may have needed to stem the tide of comments and concerns about the Pro users and Apple products. Here’s how Schiller broke the news on Mac Pro. Again, quoting from Daring Fireball...
With regards to the Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call “completely rethinking the Mac Pro”. We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers.
As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. 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.
In the interim, we know there are a number of customers who continue to buy our [current Mac Pros]. To be clear, our current Mac Pro has met the needs of some of our customers, and we know clearly not all of our customers. None of this is black and white, it’s a wide variety of customers. Some… it’s the kind of system they wanted; others, it was not.
In the meantime, we’re going to update the configs to make it faster and better for their dollar. This is not a new model, not a new design, we’re just going to update the configs. We’re doing that this week. We can give you the specifics on that.
The CPUs, we’re moving them down the line. The GPUs, down the line, to get more performance per dollar for customers who DO need to continue to buy them on the interim until we get to a newly architected system.
Apple's Craig Federighi...
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialise to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate. So it became fairly difficult to adjust. At the same time, so many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by a Mac Pro through next generation iMac. And really put a lot of our energy behind that.
TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino was also in the room, and this makes all of this story much more reliable and Panzarino has quoted Schiller as saying…
We’ll talk about what’s going on and frankly be a little more transparent with some of the things we’re doing, some of the places we’re going, because our pro users desire that and we care deeply about them and we’re dedicated to communicating well with them and helping them understand what we’re doing and what we’re up to. We want to be as transparent as we can, for our pro users, 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. So that’s why we’re here.
On Pro users, Schiller makes the point that their description of a Pro user is very broad...
There’s music creators, there’s video editors, there’s graphic designers — a really great segment with the Mac. There’s scientists, engineers, architects, software programmers — increasingly growing, particularly our App development in the app store. So there are many many things and people called pros, Pro workflows, so we should be careful not to over simplify and say “Pros want this” or “don’t want that”; it’s much more complex than that.
On the 2013 Mac Pro trashcan, Federighi said according to Techcrunch...
I think it’s fair to say, part of why we’re talking today, is that the Mac Pro — the current vintage that we introduced — we wanted to do something bold and different. In retrospect, it didn’t well suit some of the people we were trying to reach. It’s good for some; it’s an amazingly quiet machine, it’s a beautiful machine.. But it does not address the full range of customers we wanna reach with Mac Pro.
Other Apple Developments
The iMac range is apparently also getting a speed bump too although the timescale hasn't been specified, it will be this year. There is also a new external Pro Display on the way alongside the new modular Mac Pro.
But another statistic that came out of this briefing was that Apple now ships computers at a ratio of 80% notebooks to 20% desktop computers, a stat, Techcrunch's Matthew Panzarino says Apple haven’t updated the public on in some time.
As soon as we have more we will bring it to you.