What to ex­pect in a new Macpro

To see what the fu­ture holds, just look at the present.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY DAN MOREN

Ex­actly a year af­ter Ap­ple called a bunch of re­porters to its head­quar­ters to talk about the fu­ture of its pro­fes­sional-level Macs ( go.mac­world.com/tmpl), the com­pany is once again putting its stake in the ground. In an in­ter­view with Techcrunch’s Matthew Pan­zarino ( go. mac­world.com/tced), sev­eral Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives have laid out the think­ing be­hind the as-yet-unan­nounced Mac Pro, which is ex­pected to de­but in 2019.

What’s more in­ter­est­ing than the Mac Pro’s ex­is­tence, how­ever, is the ap­proach

Ap­ple is tak­ing to build­ing it: bring­ing in ac­tual pro users to see their work­flows and fig­ure out how to best ac­com­mo­date them. It’s a side of Ap­ple that, pub­licly any­way, we’ve rarely seen.

But, as you might ex­pect from Ap­ple, de­tails on this new Mac Pro are still be­ing kept tightly un­der wraps. But there are some tea leaves we can read based on Ap­ple’s pre­vi­ous and cur­rent for­ays into the pro-level Mac mar­ket.

GO­ING PRO

The Mac Pro wasn’t the only prod­uct whose ex­is­tence was re­vealed by that meet­ing a year ago: Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives also con­firmed that souped-up imacs and the imac Pro ( go.mac­world.com/byim) were on their way, and they both ar­rived in due course last year.

But by look­ing at the de­ci­sions Ap­ple made with those machines, we can start to read be­tween the lines about what the even­tual Mac Pro might look like. With high-end imacs and the imac Pro, for ex­am­ple, we can ex­trap­o­late that the Mac Pro won’t just be bet­ter hard­ware in an all-in-one chas­sis: that slot is al­ready filled by the imac Pro. (That jibes with the com­pany’s state­ments that the Mac Pro is in­tended to be mod­u­lar and will at least sup­port a sep­a­rate dis­play.)

Like­wise, we can cast our eyes back at the Mac Pros that have come be­fore: the long-run­ning “cheeseg­rater” tower that Ap­ple sold from 2006 to 2012 and the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion “trash can” model that suc­ceeded it in 2013. Ap­ple’s not the type to back­track much, so we can likely elim­i­nate any­thing that hews too closely to the overly clever de­sign of the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Mac Pro. (More­over, Ap­ple can’t have been too thrilled about hav­ing one of its prod­ucts col­lo­qui­ally de­scribed as a garbage re­cep­ta­cle.)

It is, of course, pos­si­ble that the com­pany will pro­duce some­thing closer to the pop­u­lar tower form fac­tor. But that was in turn based on the Power Mac G5, which dated from 2003, and I think it’s safe to say that the com­pany would not be ea­ger to re­turn to a de­sign that will be some 16 years old by the time the new model de­buts. It’d be like re­leas­ing a new imac based on the imac G4 ( go.mac­world.com/ img4). There may be some broad the­matic sim­i­lar­i­ties, but don’t ex­pect them to sim­ply dust off the old de­sign.

A TRUE HIGH-END MA­CHINE

Though I’ve owned a few pro­fes­sion­al­level Macs over the years, I don’t know that I would con­sider my­self a true “pro” user these days. My main work ma­chine is a 2017 Retina 5K imac, and while I mainly use it for sta­ples like writ­ing and web brows­ing, I do oc­ca­sion­ally take ad­van­tage of its horse­power while edit­ing

one of sev­eral of the pod­casts I pro­duce in Logic Pro.

That said, most of even my heav­i­est us­age would likely fall into the “pro­sumer” cat­e­gory. The 5K imac has proved more than suf­fi­cient for my needs, and the imac Pro would likely be com­i­cal overkill, given how much more power it brings to bear. And yet, it seems likely that the Mac Pro will be even a cut above that.

Techcrunch’s story says the com­pany is fo­cus­ing on things like video edit­ing, 3D an­i­ma­tion, and mu­sic pro­duc­tion, all no­to­ri­ously horse­power-in­ten­sive tasks.

All of which is to say that this can right­fully be ex­pected to be a ma­chine that is in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful. Way, way above the needs of most users. Af­ter all, Ap­ple has to leave some room be­low it for both the imac Pro and the 5K imac to ex­ist.

Ex­trap­o­lat­ing based on Ap­ple’s cur­rent pro-level of­fer­ings sug­gests that we would likely see some­thing built on In­tel’s line of Xeon pro­ces­sors, per­haps even the re­cently an­nounced Xeon Scal­able chips. (This is de­spite the ru­mor that Ap­ple will tran­si­tion the Macs to Arm-based pro­ces­sors ( go.mac­world.com/apch) in the next few years—if that does hap­pen, high per­for­mance machines like the Mac Pro would likely be the last to make the jump.) Fast RAM, fast SSD stor­age, and a full ar­ray of ports seem like shoo-ins as well.

But mod­u­lar­ity is still a key el­e­ment of the new Mac Pro’s story, not only so that Ap­ple makes it easy for pros to con­tin­u­ously up­grade their ex­pe­ri­ence but be­cause it takes some of the pres­sure off for Ap­ple to it­self re­lease reg­u­lar up­dates. Per­haps the most frus­trat­ing as­pect of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Mac Pro was that Ap­ple let it lie fal­low for so many years and that third-party up­grade paths for users were lim­ited. Com­mit­ment to the Mac Pro doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that Ap­ple binds it­self to reg­u­lar up­dates of the prod­uct—though trans­parency on that front would be ad­vis­able—but it does mean ac­knowl­edg­ing that these are machines that cus­tomers will use heav­ily and for a long time to come and plan­ning ac­cord­ingly. ■

The abil­ity to add parts and up­grade com­po­nents con­trib­uted to the tower Mac Pro’s pop­u­lar­ity.

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