Apple Opens Up on the Mac Pro

There’s no reason to write an intro to this outlining all the problems with the Late 2013 Mac Pro, so let’s get right to it: Apple is working to replace it with an all-new Mac Pro, based on a modular design, that will pair with a new, Apple-branded, built-for-pros external display. It’s not going to ship this year, but in the meantime, Apple plans on shipping configurations of the iMac better geared to the pro market.1


Apple invited a small handful of writers to its Apple’s Product Realization Lab for the Mac in Cupertino for a meeting.

John Gruber recounts how Phil Schiller opened things:

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.

For a while, I’ve been speculating on Connected that the “current” Mac Pro’s design has backed Apple into a corner. That seems to be the case, as Matthew Panzarino writes:

Federighi is careful to note that, while Apple set out do so something that was new and different with the Mac Pro, “we didn’t start with a shape and say, ‘well, here’s the fastest machine we can put in that box.’ We actually started with a target for performance and came up with what I think was a very clever design of that thermal core and thermal architecture to accommodate what we thought was the right power architecture.”

“What I think we didn’t appreciate completely at the time was how we had so tailor designed that specific vision at the time that in the future we would find ourselves a bit boxed in to a circular shape,” he says.

“We were boxed by a circle,” he jokes.

While all of the hardware talk is super exciting,2 the way Apple went about it is fascinating.

Apple has done small, hands-on meetings like this. Just think of the iPhone 4 or the Mountain Lion press events. What’s new, however, is the honesty. The company should have done this a while ago, but it’s better late than never.

We also learned some new numbers:

  • 80% of Macs sold are notebooks; 20% are desktops
  • 30% of Mac users open a “pro app” at least once a week
  • Most pro users use notebooks
  • The Mac Pro accounts for a single-digit percentage of desktop sales

That last one is eye-opening. Is it so low because the Mac Pro sucks? Maybe, but I don’t see it eclipsing the iMac, no matter how good this new machine is. Apple’s Mac team is investing in a new Mac Pro because it wants to, not because a bean counter is making them.

The numbers also show just how much the iMac has taken on over the years. Federighi, via Daring Fireball:

That is a pretty incredible evolution that we’ve seen over the last decade. The original iMac, you never would’ve thought as remotely touching pro uses. And now you look at today’s 5K iMac, top configs, it’s incredibly powerful, and a huge fraction of what would’ve traditionally — whether it’s audio editing, video editing, graphics, arts and so forth — that would’ve previously absolutely required the Mac Pros of old, are being well-addressed by iMac. But there’s still even further we can take iMac as a high performance, pro system, and we think that form factor can address even more of the pro market.

All in all, I think Apple is doing the right thing. It took too long to get to this point, but the company has shown that it is listening to its customers and understands that they’ve been let down by the current Mac Pro. There’s still more waiting in the future, but at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

  1. If you really need a Mac Pro between now and then, the 2013 is still for sale. Apple has moved the upper SKUs down in price. You’ll still getting a 2013 machine, but you’ll get more of it for the same amount of money. 
  2. I will be very tempted to upgrade from the iMac when this comes out. Sigh.