January 31, 2013

Apple's Mac Pro Discontinued in Europe, Here's a Modular Design That Could (But Won't) Replace It

It's no secret that the 'new' Mac Pro isn't here yet, but if it's not coming anytime soon, you're going to be Mac Pro-less in Europe for the foreseeable future. That's because the Mac Pro does not comply with a new European regulation set to go into effect March 1st. No one really knows what's coming in the next version, though we had a terrific guest post talking a bit about what the new Mac Pro could be like. But what if Apple went even more radical (but still functional) with their new design? Peter Zigich, a designer, has taken a stab at what he thinks would be a perfect replacement to the current model: a modular Mac Pro that isn't one-size-fits-all, but accommodates a wide range of professional and consumer applications.

First, here's the word from Apple about the decision, sent to its European resellers. This is from 9to5 Mac:

As of March 1, 2013, Apple will no longer sell Mac Pro in EU, EU candidate and EFTA countries because these systems are not compliant with Amendment 1 of regulation IEC 60950-1, Second Edition which becomes effective on this date. Apple resellers can continue to sell any remaining inventory of Mac Pro after March 1. Apple will take final orders for Mac Pro from resellers up until February 18th for shipment before March 1 2013. Countries outside of the EU are not impacted and Mac Pro will continue to be available in those areas.

We've been told by CEO Tim Cook that a new design is on the way for 2013, but it's unclear if that's still Apple's plan, or how much a new design would deviate from the current one. That doesn't mean we can't dream, right? Peter Zigich has put together some renders of his dream Mac Pro, and how he thinks Apple could stay relevant and produce a model that will satisfy a vast group of users for years to come.

Is Such a Thing Even Possible?

I actually wanted to include a semi-sad face emoticon ( :/ ) in the title -- and still, my heart aches a bit to know how unlikely it is for Apple to take this route, or even one like it. I say 'unlikely' because, well, Apple just don't do Fi'Wi no more, for one thing. And beyond that, saying a totally air-tight flat screen PC is 'for the pro in all of us' doesn't speak very loudly about trusting the 'pro' to his or her own devices (literally). Which is fine, because if it's really sexy, and it works very well, that may be enough for the pro in many of us, at least. For those who dream of more, though, dream on -- at least for now. Specifically, you're invited to share Canadian 3D designer (and long-time Apple workstation-user) Peter Zigich's dream for the truly-ultimate professional Mac machine.

The Greatest Imaginary Mac Pro You'll Never See?

Check out some more of Peter's images below, thanks to fcp.co:

The basic idea is simple and elegant, but very powerful in its expansibility -- like anything modular, the power is in the patchwork. 'Some assembly required' means a bit more build work, of course, but in theory this also means you could build, and build, and build. Here are the details Peter himself told fcp.co:

I have come up with a new design for the MacPro. It is a radical departure from current workstations, it could be the Mac Pro for the next 10 years. I'm very happy with the results, and would like to share with you.

Key Design features:

  1. Modular Design -- Like Lego Blocks. Computer built from different interlocking sections, highly customizable. Sections seamlessly connect, and share power & data (Thunderbolt). Different sections: CPU, Optical, Power Supply, PCI, HDD etc. All dimensions are 100% accurate.
    One user needs are very different from others, so should be a MacPro.
  2. Pro & Consumer CPU Options:
    Pro:
    Server class dual CPUs (Xenon E5), 8 DIMM ECC memory slots.

    Consumer:
    Consumer CPU i3, i5, i7, 4 DIMM slots.
  3. Entering new markets -- Various configurations:
    Small home/ iTunes Server | Competes with NAS makers (QNAP, Synology) | Pro Servers (again) | Consumers Workstations (Headless iMac) | Base Consumer (little better than Mac Mini) | Pro Workstations

There's also a follow-up post at fcp.co in which Peter elaborates on the possibility that Apple will, in the future, be switching to the more energy-efficient ARM CPUs. He speculates-in-specs to produce more renders, this time visualizing how much smaller an equally (or even more) powerful machine could be compared to the contemporary Mac Pro (pictured left, again courtesy fcp.co and Peter Zigich).

So, What's It Gonna Be?

The elephant in this here room, of course, is what and when the future of Mac Pro dawns. One thing is guaranteed: whatever Apple does unveil is going be a mind-blower. It'll have to be. The smartphone turn-around time -- and along those lines, the dispensable difference between the iPhones 4s and 5 -- just can't apply here. We've simply been waiting for too much for too long. Tiny shifts (kind of) work to launch a 'fresh' model product, but only on that short-attention-span time scale.

In any case, it would certainly be exciting for anything like this to find its way into the Mac Pro line -- especially since you'll no longer be able to get the current model in Europe after March 1st. Of course, you could always order some boards, chips, and prefab parts to try your hand at building something like it yourself! Alternatively, you could ask Peter if he'd like to build one for you (though unless you're offering a lot of cha-ching, I'd settle for thanking him for his work). If I knew what kudos were, I'd give a ton of them to Peter, and to fcp.co for the 'digg.'

What do you guys think of the discontinuation announcement? For those of you in the EU, is this going to affect you until Apple introduces a new Mac Pro model? What do you think of Peter's design work? Is this your dream Mac Pro, or a bit too heavy on options for your needs? Is this something you think Apple may actually produce in its pro line of machines?

Links:

[via TechCrunch]

Your Comment

46 Comments

"One thing is guaranteed: whatever Apple does unveil is going be a mind-blower." - I wouldn't exactly call it guaranteed. I think you might be having a little too much faith in Apple, Dave. There is no guarantee that anything will ever come - all we have are a few comments from TIm Cook saying that something is coming, eventually.

This is the same company who's CEO once said that 10-inches is too small for a laptop, USB 2.0 was ready to replace firewire, and that smaller tablets aren't the future. I'm not trying to hate on apple, I'm just saying that just because the CEO says something, nothing is guaranteed with such a closed-door company.

In fact, if you're exclusively looking at all the evidence, there is almost no other evidence out there that apple has any commitment to pro computer users. Look at the mediocre "update" to the Mac Pro line, killing support for FCS, their push towards consumer, mobile devices, and the fact that their OS is imitating mobile more and more... I just don't see anything in there that encourages me to believe a statement from them claiming that something is coming for the pro user.

January 31, 2013

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David S.

Hey David -- but wait, my context! "...It’ll have to be." I meant this as more of a, "This had really better be good." The points you bring up are definitely things we've touched upon here, and things that will surely come up again.

January 31, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
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Sadly, I agree with David. I've always been a Mac user and they've neglected the pro line for too long. Hopefully they'll introduce something great but for many it will be a case of too little too late. Cool designs won't be a factor for me anymore; money's tight for most these days. It'll be all about performance and price.

That said, I wish they would simply licence OSX to the PC world. They'd clean up in the same way Microsoft did with Windows back in the day and they could concentrate on their smaller, cash-cow devices while the rest of us could reap the benefits of a more popular, accessible OS with broader software audience. It'll probably never happen though.

January 31, 2013

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ADC

I predict that the new Mac Pro will not have a open PCIe slot in it. The only option will be to get a Thunderbolt PCIe enclosure. The graphics card will be designed by Apple and either Nvidia or Radeon and intergraded into the mother board. It maybe built on a PCIe 4.0 architecture but more than likely still 3.0. It will have at the max 2 extra hard drive bays. 4 8core processors bring the total core count to 32. Just my thoughts.

January 31, 2013

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Wow. Mac using professionals have gotten so desperate they're now doing fan fiction macs.

January 31, 2013

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It's one hell of a fan fic

January 31, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
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I think it's an interesting idea and an interesting paradigm for developing computers. But it has nothing to do with Macs, and is the exact opposite of the design approach they've taken in the last decade. This is more likely to happen in the PC world, which is more open to ideas from non-Cupertino sources.I say that as someone who, while their aesthetic doesn't work for me personally, admires their dedication to it.

But more to the point, it's just sad to see you all pining for a modern computer. The only thing I can imagine being worse is if/when the new work station comes out. Whether it's up to snuff or not, it's going to be all mac people talk about for months on end.

January 31, 2013

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Designers have always done this for their portfolios, regardless of the product or company. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of camera designs floating out there that have never, and will never, be used by any company.

January 31, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
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Absolutely. If they made Mac Pros like this (and charged appropriately) I would make it my next PC in a heartbeat.

January 31, 2013

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Andrew Swan

Ultimately what I think people want is the OS. If Mac OS was allow the OS to run on pc computers and parts, I don't think people would complain too much.

January 31, 2013

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Agreed.

February 1, 2013

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Fresno Bob

The entire point of OS X is that it is designed for ONE set of standardized hardware and thus it runs way more smoothly and efficiently. It's optimized and what not. Windows is shoveled into anything and everything and thats how it got its instability stigma, because there are so many variables in design and manufacturing, depending on whoever makes the hardware.

February 1, 2013

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john jeffreys

That's true. I think a solution to that issue would be a team of testers that tests and lists authorized motherboard manufactures. I think manufactures would not have too much of an issue to get their parts tested so they can place an "OSX Approved" seal on the box. Also the blog community would also be of great help in listing their recommendations and personal test results. It could possibly work.

February 1, 2013

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Nah. That's not really Apple's like philosophy. They want you to be firmly in their ecosystem, and all their hardware (phones, tablets, computers) looks the same and is built amazingly. They considered letting OS X loose onto trashy and cheap PCs a long time ago and realized it would be a mistake that would pollute the brand.

February 1, 2013

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john jeffreys

LOL, I've seen you refer to PCs as "cheap and trashy" several times, and I think it's hilarious.

PCs use state-of-the-art hardware, and you can ALWAYS get the latest and greatest video card and processor for a PC. A Mac Pro will use a card that is several generations old.

Every PC I have built is not "cheap and trashy," but rather EXPENSIVE and POWERFUL, and ALWAYS state-of-art.

You're such a troll.

February 1, 2013

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Robert

expensive, powerful, and made of cheap plastic that warps and creaks when you hold it. And full of ad-ridden software. And dumb stickers. And loud fans. And a 1 hour battery life.

You'll never know how it feels to wake up in the morning and open up a macbook pro and the cold aluminum kisses your hands as you type.

February 1, 2013

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john jeffreys

- My case is made of steel.
- My fans are silent.
- I don't see any stickers... ANYWHERE.
- A real copy of Windows that you install yourself (not pre-installed by a company like Dell/HP) contains NO bloatware. In fact, there's nothing there but a complete naked version of Windows. It's completely blank/empty when you first load up your desktop. It's a beautiful thing.

- I see you're talking about laptops. At this point, most PC laptops on the market have far superior performance for half the price or less. And working pros know this. There's no need for a debate.

February 2, 2013

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Robert

Great point. I'd be right there. Nothing beats apples OS in any device. Android doesn't even come close.

February 1, 2013

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Anthony Marino

How is that, exactly?

February 1, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
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I have two words for you. Apple Maps! Enough Said, Android Rocks! You sir are sadly the one who is missing,,, that left turn.

February 4, 2013

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David Sharp

Ha ha ha, that is pretty funny, actually!

February 8, 2013

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bret

I'm still perfectly happy with my current MacPro, even if there was a new model I wouldn't upgrade since I don't feel the need to.
Rendering could be a bit faster, but is more software-related than hardware since I'm still running FCP7.
I can imagine the need for a faster machine if you're doing fx or 3D or run a larger company where short turnaround times are vital , but for a freelancer editing and grading music videos, weddings and documentary work that's really not necessary.
Planning your workflow goes a long way too. I usually start batch converting to ProRes before going to sleep, same thing with all major rendering (final colour grading and sharpening). Or I start rendering on the MacPro and continue editing on my Macbook Pro (which is one of the first Core2Duo's, right before the unibodies ...).
I've long given up on having the newest gear, which is why I probably still have an iPhone 2G too LOL

February 1, 2013

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Thats all well and good, but what about the future? What comes after mountain lion? Will FCP7 be supported on it? What about new plugins or updates to your existing plugins? What about new hardware? A slow car never realizes he's going slow till a Ferrari zips past him. What happens in 5yrs when everyone wants 4k video? These are questions we need to be thinking about now, or soon.

February 4, 2013

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David Sharp

If I was to speculate what apples next professional computer would be I would look at the trends in their design and apply it to professionals(or apples vision of professionals).
I think the next mac pro will be a Imac pro with one 31" screen (four 15 retina screens together) and a 26" (four 13" retina screens). The Imac would be a little thicker or if I was to be bold even "squarish" like iphone4. I think they would use the low energy xeon processors. Best case they would offer the ability to have two graphics cards (like a high end laptop) I also think that it would have 4 thunderbolt ports and that nvidia will make a special thunderbolt graphicscard. Hopefully the "square shape and a 30" realastate back allows for up to 3 harddrives.

This would probably push many of the professionals buttons. The screen would be enticing for both video and photo/design professionals. I myself would be tempted. In the best of worlds I would also se them develop a new interface where you could hook up a external box for expansion cards (maybe a two and a 4card expansion box so you can move the noisy parts as far as possible from your workspace. I find this muck more likely than the Pc:ish vision of the designer above ( No offense I just dont se apple using that design) Apple don't do modularity the do beautiful tyranny :)

February 1, 2013

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T

Great ideas, there. But I'm betting that if ever Apple releases a new Pro, it won't use that dated aluminum "grid" look: it looks too "2005"-ish.

February 1, 2013

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FabDex

No love for the mac pro never. Too expensive and nothing special, really. But cool ideas here!

February 1, 2013

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ruvido

The new Mac pro; a big i-pad just like the 4k from Panasonic, touchscreen and no harddrives only flashmemory ;-))

February 1, 2013

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John Links

Hackintosh FTW! Seriously, if they ever do release a new mac pro, at this stage in the game, will it really be worth it? Most, not all, people have abandoned Final Cut and have switched to either Adobe or Avid. Both of those run fine on Windows. I enjoy my hackintosh, but I know that it is not something I'd be able to use/build if I was working for a high end professional company. I know a lot of places are seriously looking into other options as it does appear that Apple has forgotten us. Gotta make a redic profit for those shareholders. Shareholders first, consumer last. The Dell workstations are actually pretty nice. I just looked at the HPs on their website. Seem way overpriced, but maybe I'm missing something or buying direct from them is a bad idea...not sure.

February 1, 2013

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@ Nic : there's plenty of users who won't migrate to Windows, but prefer Mac's OS(X). And who will want to run Adobe's CS on a Mac (whether it's a real Mac or a Hackintosh).
That being said, plenty of small production companies I know use iMacs on the daily and have no problems whatsoever doing so.

February 1, 2013

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I use a Hackintosh - it's amazing, but you must have a backup editing machine. When things go bad (and they will) you're on your own trawling forums for answers. When an upgrade to OS-X is released, it's quite a nerve wracking experience wondering if you will actually have a usable machine after the upgrade.

MacPros don't make sense to me anymore - a new iMac 27" i7 with external RAID for editing is more than fast enough for _my_ needs - this will be my next editing machine.

February 1, 2013

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MWL

Try setting up a boot camp on your hackintosh and have windows7 on the other side and install creative cloud on both, if the apple side gives you problems reboot on the windows side and keep working.

February 4, 2013

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David Sharp

"Most, not all, people have abandoned Final Cut and have switched to either Adobe or Avid."

Maybe all the people that just sit around on blogs all day and argue about gear that hasn't come out yet. Most people that actually work still use macs.

February 1, 2013

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john jeffreys

I believe, no, I KNOW that the next Mac Pro will be the most amazing and awesome computer ever. My very personal list of new features would be:
- even more amazing and awesome high technology that breaks new frontiers
- I know Macs never fail and use secret components from even more secret vendors that provide harddiscs, CPUs etc but I would like even more reliability, at least 110%
- an even heavier case (the current one could break your back - but I want something that may crush small animals and children)
- a much more dumbed down OS that restricts you in much more ways - I believe my employees are way too stupid to work on Windows and unable to configure anything by themselves, even if it`s a matter of seconds like it is on Win7
- more shininess for the case, maybe add some blinking lights like they used in the old sci-fi movies to indicate super computing power
- what about changing the name? isn`t it possible to get a license to call it "Mac Spielberg" or "Mac James Cameron" that way our shitty little local clients may be tricked to believe that we are even more professional than we already are thanks to Apple

February 2, 2013

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Mariano

If sarcastic snark had gravity, your comment would be a super-massive black hole -- but one that humored me to gaze upon

February 2, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

Sadly, I think the best path Apple could pursue would be to come out with a fully configurable system as suggested here. It appears though, that Apple doesn't understand that it is the Mac Pro that has created a whole community and generation of professionals who use Mac Pros and by doing so, influence a whole other range of people to use Apple products. I ran a PC software company for 13 years and finally bought my first Apple, a Mac Pro, six years ago now. From that Mac Pro, I've bought iPhones and lately, an iPad. I can assure you that if Apple abandons the professional market, there will be nothing to keep me in their ecosystem that they seem to have so brilliantly created. The Mac Pro is the foundation for me and today with so many excellent smartphones and tablets on the market, Apple would be well advised to not ignore what may be a small, but influential market. I will neither, forgive, nor forget, if they abandon the professional video//creative market.

February 2, 2013

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I don't think it's that Apple doesn't understand - they just don't care. The fact is, pro editors and the like are among the tiniest sliver of Apple's financial pie. I'm not saying Apple is right, I'm just saying that they aren't missing your point - look at FCP X and the immediate axing of FCP 7/FCS. They just don't care.

February 2, 2013

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David S.

I find it very interesting that no-one has alluded to the elephant in the room with regard to all this - and that is the death of Mr Apple himself - Steve Jobs - last year. I think it's fair to say that the entire Apple design and marketing philosophy, throughout most of its life, has been a direct reflection of Jobs' own personal psyche. With his sad demise, and with Tim Cook's taking up of the reins, we are looking at a totally new situation. I'm sure Cook is/will be a great CEO, but he is not a visionary and, whatever any of us might personally feel about Jobs, I don't think any of us would deny his unique and powerful vision and hands-on attention to ensuring that vision was manifested.

So what is Cook's vision? Does he have one? Do any of us know? Time will tell, I guess.

February 3, 2013

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Simon

Would not be surprised if Apple decided to get away from Server technology with Xeons. They are rather expensive, and putting ever more x86 cores into a box has a dimishing return on investment. An alternative could be to use a single Ivy Bridge CPU, but combine it with a special CPU for OpenCL and OpenGL processing, like the new Nvidia Tesla, or intel's coming Xeon Phi. This may well be the reason why we have not seen a revamped Mac Pro based on Sandy Bridge, even though they have been available since about April or May 2012, and it wouldn't take much effort to replace the mainboard with another one. Maybe Apple wants a version of the special chip that directly connects to Quickpath.

February 3, 2013

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Thyl Engelhardt

If apple follows it's current trends then the new mac pro will be hardly configurable at all... users can't be trusted to deal with 'technical' stuff. And they certainly won't allow for easy upgrade.. you will have to buy a whole new machine every time you want to upgrade your RAM.. look at the new Mac Book Pros.

I'm sure they will come up with a beautiful computer, they always do, but it will be overpriced, too many fans have already moved on.. and frankly.. apple just doesn't offer the quality control that they supposedly once did.. I've had 2 macs die on me recently.. both out of warranty of course.. you can no longer expect your mac to last much longer than your 'applecare' if it even makes it that far.

February 3, 2013

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Brenton

And that trend -if evident- could well be the result of making the packing ever denser. By this, the chips operate closer to their thermal limits, and might fail quicker.

February 4, 2013

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Thyl Engelhardt

I actually think they could hit a target close but also far afield from this sort of concept design...instead I think they could pump up the Mini product line.

There's no reason why you can't put an awesome modern processor in a Mini, or even several. The problem is you can't put decent storage and GPU options inside the same little box. But that little box has a Thunderbolt bus now! So why not just offer the Mini in its existing flavors, its server flavor, and a new "Pro" flavor?

Then you could sell optional modular units that stack and connect via Thunderbolt that contain extra drives, better GPU options including maybe even a PCIe cage, and more?

Personally, if I were Apple and looking to keep my "product lines" to a minimum while still serving professionals and leveraging new technologies effectively, this is EXACTLY what I would do.

February 4, 2013

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trackofalljades

What did the Europeans have a problem with the mac book pro? I dont understand.

February 7, 2013

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Richard Cave

Would that it were so… I'd frckn love this.

February 7, 2013

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Tw

The base Pro in that potential design would be a great starting point for me. Just big enough that it can be a powerhouse, small enough to not hinder my issue with space too much.

It just irritates me that Apple are concentrating so much on tablets and phones and forgetting about the desktop/laptop users which have been faithful customers. We want customisation options but with the same OS that we know and love, not an iPad every 6 months and a new phone every year. And we most certainly don't want to be locked into buying computers with non-user replaceable RAM. They're slowly removing everything that I found very useful from their systems.

Oh look, that turned into a rant.

February 7, 2013

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Anne

The new Mac Pro will be rack mountable, the design above is clearly not even a good guess!

February 8, 2013

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You are correct... rack mountable is what pros have been waiting for.

February 8, 2013

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Gerald Marks