[Update]: the new "R2D2" Mac Pro is here. By the time some of you read this, we may already know whether we are getting a new Mac Pro at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Put aside for a moment if it even makes sense to keep investing in Apple on the pro end. A new Mac Pro, in whatever form it takes, is going to fill a specific need for specific people, whether you think people are crazy for being loyal to Apple or not. The Mac Pro has been a workhorse in the creative industries for some time now, but the lack of updates has sent many people in many different directions. There has been some information floating around that points towards a very different design with limited expandability. If Apple decides to go in that direction, however, will any professionals -- the market Apple would target with this computer -- actually want one?
Lou Borella, an editor and post-production professional, began a Facebook page last year asking Apple for an update regarding the Mac Pro (and they did get one from CEO Tim Cook). While the response left out a lot of the details, Apple did say they were planning something for later in 2013. Only a few days away from the WWDC, Lou posted some information he'd been given from a credible source:
- It will be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt.
- There will be no internal expandability.
- It will have support for Dual GPU's with three monitor support right out of the box.
- No FW800 or Optical drive
- It will be released in the fall
- It will be a completely new design
Two days later, he mentioned that the Mac Pro Product Manager had a conversation with video professional Andrew Baird, saying that the new machine was going to be "something really different." This certainly seems to allude to the fact that Apple may try to reinvent the way we've thought of these computers in the past, but whether or not their approach actually delivers something professionals want -- which is a machine that is as fast as possible with as many options for expansion as possible -- is another question entirely. This is some of what has been speculated over the past year about what Apple may have up its sleeve, but while a device like this certainly changes the concept about what a "professional" computer should be, does that mean it's actually a good thing?
Apple has been a huge proponent of Thunderbolt, and with the recent official announcement of Thunderbolt 2, it may or may not line up in time to make its way into a Mac Pro. If a new Mac Pro were to be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt, speed is crucial, as the Thunderbolt spec, even at its best throughput, is still much slower than a native PCI-E connection. Not having any expansion ports would be a serious issue for many video professionals, as the speed of their workflow would be limited by a cable, not by the hardware in their specific cards.
The final Mac Pro design may take on some of these features, but not being expandable seriously limits its usefulness, especially when a souped-up iMac would be able to do most of what this possible new Mac Pro would be capable of. If this is the machine we get, I think you'll see it adopted by some, but we will likely see more people moving to Windows machines or building Hackintoshes (which Apple could certainly limit the more proprietary they get with their hardware).
With the WWDC being as packed as it is this morning with announcements, they may be holding off until later to announce the new Mac Pro. But either way we'll know soon enough just how "different" they want to be with a new design.
Regardless of what Apple does, however, it may be too little, too late for lots of pros, as Lou so eloquently puts it:
Apple, here is the most important bit of advice you might ever receive: Your reputation with the professional market hinges on the next Mac Pro. Fairly or not. The years of silence regarding almost all Pro level products have created great skepticism in the Pro market. You need to fix this. The cloak and dagger approach is not working. Right now many of us are still here because of your history of delivering outstanding products. You've had your mulligan with FCPX. You probably will not get another one.
Do any of you see any reasons why not being expandable would be good for users? If you've already got a machine that you can upgrade at will, what would interest you in something like this?