…And Does Apple Still Care?
While I’ve heard stories of people running Final Cut Pro on MacBook Pros and iMacs (and horror stories of people running it on Mac Minis), the true professional choice is the Mac Pro tower. Even “Early 2008″ Mac Pros perform as well as the fastest iMacs and MacBook Pros (as of May 2012) and no other Mac offers so many configuration or upgrade options.
Until yesterday, the Mac Pro hadn’t seen an update since 2010. And that update was a huge disappointment.
The two-year wait had led many to claim that the Mac Pro was going to be discontinued. Others have further claimed that Apple no longer cares about the Professional market. Was yesterday’s “half-assed” update definitive proof that Apple is going to kill the Mac Pro?
I can usually see Apple’s reasoning behind its most controversial decisions; still, even I had serious concerns.
Now that we’ve all had the benefit of a night’s rest let’s unpack this a bit. The three primary issues regarding the updates are:
- The lack of Thunderbolt, ”the fastest, most versatile I/O ever“.
- The lack of USB 3.0
- The lack of Intel’s Xeon E5 processor
Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops have had Thunderbolt connectivity since February 2011 and in the meantime, Thunderbolt has found its way to Apple’s consumer-oriented iMacs and Mac Minis. So how could Apple’s only Professional desktop workstation lack these features?
Adding Thunderbolt to the Mac Pro isn’t as simple as sticking another “output” on the back. Thunderbolt is a combination of PCIe and DisplayPort output. If you add a PCIe graphics card, there needs to be a way to send the DisplayPort signal to the Thunderbolt controller, then back out to a Thunderbolt port. To add Thunderbolt, the Mac Pro architecture needs to change; it needs to be re-engineered.
Adding Thunderbolt is much easier on a MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Mini because everything can happen on the motherboard. This is why these products have Thunderbolt and Mac Pros do not.
Ars Technica describes yesterday’s Mac Pro update as “essentially three-year old hardware in a 10-year old tower design”.
Instapaper developer, Marco Amant makes the case that the Mac Pro update is a good way to clear out parts inventory, though his (bitter) conclusion is that this is the last Mac Pro before it is discontinued.
However, David Pogue, writing for the New York Times today says that an executive assured him “that new models and new designs (of the iMac and Mac Pro) are under way, probably for release in 2013.”
My take is that Apple updated the Mac Pro in the best way that it could right now, and that the next update will be one that unifies all the latest technologies. It’s hard to be patient, but it’s either that or Windows. I’ll wait.