Apple Says All-New Modular Mac Pro With Apple-Branded High-End Pro Display Coming After 2017
Apple today reshuffled its Mac Pro configurations and pricing, marking the first "update" to Apple's pro-oriented desktop computer in over three years. Apple also confirmed it is working on a "completely rethought" Mac Pro with Apple-branded pro displays that will launch at some point beyond this year.
The former $3,999 model is now the $2,999 base model, while the previously built-to-order 8-core model with dual D700 GPUs is now the high-end stock configuration for $3,999. Both models are equipped with 256GB PCIe-based flash storage, four USB 3.0 ports, six Thunderbolt 2 ports, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.
The former quad-core model with dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs and 12GB of RAM now has 6-cores with dual D500 GPUs and 16GB of RAM, while the 6-Core model with dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs is now 8-cores with dual D700 GPUs and 16GB of RAM. There are no other hardware changes—not even Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Meanwhile, Apple said an all-new Mac Pro will be a high-end, high-throughput modular system that will "take longer than this year" to complete. It will be accompanied by an Apple-branded external display in at least one size, essentially marking the return of the discontinued Thunderbolt Display.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller via 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 said that Mac desktops represent roughly 20 percent of overall Mac sales, with the Mac Pro accounting for only a "single-digit" percentage of Mac sales, perhaps as justification for the elongated refresh cycle. 1,202 days had passed since the last Mac Pro update, per the MacRumors Buyer's Guide.
Apple also suggested that the "trash can" design of the current Mac Pro has restricted its ability to truly upgrade it.
Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi via TechCrunch:
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system that we thought 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 materialize 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. And 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 Mac Pro through a next generation iMac.. And really put a lot of our energy behind that. [But,] while that [upgraded iMac] system is going to be fantastic for a huge number of customers — we want to do more.
It isn't often that Apple pre-announces new products in its pipeline, but there were growing concerns that Apple no longer cared about professional users, and this is the company's way of proving otherwise. Schiller reiterated that Apple is committed to the Mac and has "great products" planned for the future.
We’re committed to the Mac, we’ve got great talent on the Mac, both hardware and software, we’ve got great products planned for the future, and as far as our horizon line can see, the Mac is a core component of the things Apple delivers, including to our pro customers.
Apple's repriced Mac Pro configurations are now listed on its online store, but the 8-core model is "currently unavailable."