Apple pledges new, modular Mac Pro for 2018

April 5, 2017 // 9:31 a.m.

Tags: #apple #apple-mac #craig-federighi #mac #mac-pro #mac-pro-2013 #mac-pro-2018 #modular #pc

Apple has uncharacteristically admitted that its innovative Mac Pro redesign missed its target market, confessing to single-digit sales shares and promising a ground-up rethink that brings back the modular nature demanded of professional-grade computing hardware and so badly missing from the current model.

Apple's Mac Pro range launched in 2006 with for-the-time high-end hardware - including dual Xeon processors and eight memory slots - in an eye-catching aluminium chassis. While the internals changed over the years, the Mac Pro remained one of the most easily upgraded of all Apple's devices - until June 2013, when the new Mac Pro was unveiled. Designed around a triangular central heatsink, the new Mac Pro was an undeniable feat of design and engineering: smaller by far than its predecessors or competition, quiet, and yet with still impressive specifications.

More than three years since its commercial availability, though, and the Mac Pro is looking long in the tooth, and its design means that there's no easy way for owners to upgrade the hardware to keep their systems current. That, Apple has admitted in a surprise press event, was a mistake - and one the company is looking to correct with a return to the old ways, designing a new-new Mac Pro which will ditch the innovative cylindrical form factor in favour of an easily maintainable modular design reminiscent of the classic models.

'I think it’s fair to say, part of why we’re talking today, is that the Mac Pro, the current vintage that we introduced, we wanted to do something bold and different,' Apple's Craig Federighi stated during the event, as reported by attendee TechCrunch. 'In retrospect, it didn’t well suit some of the people we were trying to reach. It’s good for some; it’s an amazingly quiet machine, it’s a beautiful machine, but it does not address the full range of customers we wanna reach with Mac Pro.'

As well as being difficult to upgrade, Apple has admitted that the current Mac Pro design is even difficult even for the company itself to modify for different workloads. In particular, the clever three-sided heatsink system was built with dual-GPU builds in mind: One side cools the CPU while the other two sides cool one GPU each. If you try to build a Mac Pro with only a single, more powerful GPU, the heatsink can't cope - meaning Apple has painted itself into the corner of only being able to offer dual-GPU setups.

Sadly for Mac fans in the market for a high-end system Real Soon Now, the redesign won't be hitting the market until some time next year. In the meantime, Apple has reduced the price of the Mac Pro and its optional upgrades - in the face, the company has admitted, of weaker-than-expected sales which see the Mac Pro making up a single-digit-percentage of all Mac sales. Specifications and pricing for the new Mac Pro have not been discussed.

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