Apple is working on a more modular and upgradeable Mac Pro


— 8:59 AM on April 4, 2017

Apple's compact, cylindrical Mac Pro was a tour de force when it launched in 2013. That tiny system housed as many as 12 Ivy Bridge Xeon cores and a pair of AMD FirePro graphics cards powered by Tahiti or Pitcairn GPUs. Despite those beefy specs and compact dimensions, the Mac Pro ran quietly thanks to an innovative "thermal core" cooling design.

The Mac Pro still does all of those things the exact same way, because Apple hasn't updated the machine in the almost four years that have since passed.

In that time, Intel has announced two new generations of Xeons. Nvidia and AMD have both begun fabricating graphics cards on next-generation process technology. Mac power users have seen the company refresh most every other product in its lineup, and their murmurs of discontent have turned into a roar of protest with the arrival of every new MacBook Pro or iPad. Some dyed-in-the-wool Mac fans have even moved to custom-built Windows PCs in frustration.

To quell this tsunami of discontent, Apple recently brought five journalists to its Cupertino campus to perform a mea culpa of sorts, John Gruber among them. The Daring Fireball writer reports that Apple is working on a "completely rethought" Mac Pro that will be less tightly integrated and more upgradeable in response to new hardware. The company is also working on a new lineup of high-end displays to accompany the Mac Pro. 

None of that hardware will be arriving this year, however. Apple exec Phil Schiller told Gruber that the company needs more time to refine the Mac Pro and its pro displays than a 2017 release would have allowed for.

To palliate Mac users who need more power now, the company is lowering the prices of its higher-end Mac Pro configurations in its current lineup. BuzzFeed News was also present at the event, and it says that the $2999 base model will now ship with a six-core Xeon CPU and dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs alongside 16GB of memory. $3999 buys an eight-core Xeon and dual FirePro D700 cards. That's something, I suppose, but it doesn't do anything to soothe the fact that one would be spending enormous amounts of money on hardware that's well past its sell-by date.

More immediate relief for Apple power users might come in the form of the iMac. Gruber reports that Apple is readying a new version of its evergreen all-in-one for release this year, including versions that are specifically tailored to the needs of pro use. The company didn't share any further details of those machines at its round-table event.

The next Mac Pro probably won't retain the compact and cylindrical design of today's system. Apple told Gruber that the thermal design of the 2013 Pro was well-suited to handling a pair of graphics cards, but a card with a large single GPU wouldn't have been happy in that enclosure. The rethought Mac Pro will purportedly be better-suited to today's more thermally-dense hardware. Whatever Apple has in the works, it can't arrive soon enough.

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