Thursday, April 5, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

New Mac Pro Won’t Arrive Until 2019

Matthew Panzarino (Hacker News, MacRumors):

“We want to be transparent and communicate openly with our pro community, so we want them to know that the Mac Pro is a 2019 product. It’s not something for this year.” In addition to transparency for pro customers, there’s also a larger fiscal reason behind it. […] This is why Apple wants to be as explicit as possible now, so that if institutional buyers or other large customers are waiting to spend budget on, say iMac Pros or other machines, they should pull the trigger without worry that a Mac Pro might appear late in the purchasing year.

[…]

To be blunt: Is this the original story arc of the Mac Pro’s development, or are we looking at a roadmap that has a fundamentally different timeline than one year ago.

“I don’t think that the timeline has fundamentally changed,” says Ternus. “I think this is very much a situation where we want to measure twice and cut once, and we want to make sure we’re building a really well thought-out platform for what our pro customers are doing today. But also with an eye towards what they’re going to be doing in the future, as well. And so to do that right, that’s what we’re focusing on.”

While there are no further details on the exact shape that the Mac Pro will take, Boger says they are still very much in the modular mindset.

[…]

My recent conversations with Apple (including the ones cited in this piece, but not those alone) lead me to believe that they know they kept going on a path with pro customers that they felt was working long after it had, in fact, begun to erode. I’m not exactly sure what the timeline was, but given the fact that the Mac Pro won’t arrive until 2019, I’m guessing just before the round-table discussion a year ago.

I don’t see a way to spin this as anything other than crushing news. Either pro customers are still a low priority at Apple or the company is just unable to execute. Yes, technically Apple did not promise last year that the Mac Pro would arrive in 2018, but that was the clear implication. If the timeline hasn’t fundamentally changed, that now seems like a deliberate misdirection. And, even now, Apple is not committing to “early 2019,” just sometime during that year.

How could the “path” have been working until 2017 when Apple knew in 2014 that the 2013 Mac Pro was a thermal dead-end? The 2013 design had already been met with skepticism when it was announced at WWDC six months before shipping. For many users, there hasn’t been a “real” Mac Pro update since 2011. The implication is that until a year ago Apple’s only plan was to build iMacs.

And as far as rectifying things, Ternus’s comments make it sound Apple is taking exactly the wrong approach. This was not the time to do fundamental market research, rethink what a professional computer should be, and come up with a revolutionary new design that will last. The way to show pro customers that Apple cares would have been to give them what they were asking for—a new cheese grater—as soon as possible and then get working on the future. (Foregoing a stopgap model might have made sense if Apple had been targeting, say, early 2018, but apparently that was never the case.) Making perfect the enemy of good just sends the message that Apple isn’t listening and you should switch to Windows.

Instead, everyone is stuck waiting, yet we still have no idea what the new Mac Pro will be, and thus whether it’s worth waiting for. Apple hasn’t said what it means by “modular.” If all it means is “no built-in display,” that’s not very helpful. Certainly, this is not “transparent” and “open” communication.

And, in the meantime, there hasn’t been so much as a CPU bump to the 2013 Mac Pro. This was the “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass” model that was supposed to show Apple hadn’t forgotten about the pro market.

Thomas Ricker:

The Mac Pro, announced in April 2017 is not coming until 2019. If Apple’s development lifecycle is generally two years, then the April announcment was pretty much an “oh shit, we need to respond to consumer outrage moment.” Bizarre.

Justin Flood:

I can’t imagine why sourcing a pretty space grey xeon motherboard from foxconn and CNC milling a slightly shrunken and thinned version of the Cheesegrater case should take this long. Unless of course, they are overthinking it. Which they are.

Steven Woolgar:

When Apple transitioned to Intel, they sent generic Intel motherboards in the cheesegrater G5. Suck up pride and just ship us a damned top of the line motherboard and GPU with drivers now (outsource it like the displays). 6+ years of waiting on a Pro machine is a bit much.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Great that Apple is being open about its work with professionals. But yeah, with a six year gap between releases, be nice if they could give more detail about the plans for this product. Maybe find out ahead of time whether they’re building the right/wrong machine this time?

Paul Haddad:

Just stick a freaking Xeon in a large box. Literally should be the easiest product they release in any year.

Ryan Jones:

Bingo. Am I a broken record yet? STFU about new products TIM! AND, if you can’t (like Mac Pro) then don’t semi-lie. Set realistic goals, then add fluff, and over-deliver.

This unforced errors, and “delays” because you set your own deadlines you can’t hit is so idiotic.

Michael Love:

Interesting that now we know it’s 2019. But not much to offer hope of a pro-oriented MBP revamp - it feels to me like they’ve as with the Mac Pro they’ve painted themselves into a thermal corner making them so thin + can only partly mitigate that with eGPUs.

@gonefishingsign:

Talk is irrelevant when the action reveals disdain for pro user. Had a lengthy discussion this AM about Pro direction, the widespread attitude is find a new platform for work. And try to convince purchasing managers that 2015 hardware is needed for ports, escape key, etc 🙃🤔🙄

Steve Troughton-Smith:

As somebody who desperately needs a new headless desktop Mac, it’s incredibly frustrating that Apple can’t ship one. Apple’s determination to create the ‘perfect’ Mac Pro instead of just shipping a damn box leaves us with no options. At this point I’d take a damn G5/DTK chassis

Previously: The Mac Pro Lives.

Update (2018-04-05): Tim Ekl:

Taking this thought one step further: what if the Mac Pro were the first ARM-based Mac? What if it shipped with a couple dozen ARM cores, happily parallelizing the kinds of workloads the Mac Pro is known for?

That would be interesting—and yet another reason to ship a stopgap cheese grater.

John Gruber:

Sure, I wish the new Mac Pro were coming sooner. But overall this story is fantastic news for pro users — it shows Apple not only cares about the pro market, but that they’ve changed course and decided that the best way to serve pros is to work with them hand in hand.

Josh Centers:

Apple should just reopen its clone program at this point.

mockletoy:

This gigantic delay between announcement and delivery? That tells some of us that there’s no point in waiting, because if they were going to give us what we wanted they could have done it pretty much instantly: give me a plain old tower — you can make it all fancy and aluminum and pretty, who cares, I’ll even shrug and pay extra for it — with a plain old motherboard and some plain old PCIE slots.

[…]

Based on all that, when I hear them say it’ll be modular, I shudder to think what their interpretation of that will be[…]

Update (2018-04-06): Nolan O’Brien:

Mac Pro and Mac Mini for years were the easiest products for Apple. Bump the damn specs and ship it. Maybe adopt modern I.D. improvements over time, but holy hell this is abysmal.

The complaint of the Mac Pro in 2012 was not that the I.D. was stale, but that the specs were.

Andy Lee:

I wonder if (a) the decision makers at Apple are struggling with cognitive dissonance -- if they’re honestly incapable of grasping how easy it would be, in this particular case, to delight us with a new thing that isn’t revolutionary; or (b) more cynically, they know perfectly well how easy it would be, but are terrified of hurting the mystique around Apple design by proving their detractors are right, that there’s nothing uniquely magical about Apple’s hardware; or (c) we’re all wrong about the obvious thing to do now, and in the long run, what they’re doing will actually be best for all concerned, even if it’s hard for us outside Apple to see it. There was a time I could have believed (c), but I don’t now.

Bob Burrough:

I don’t care if you put 32 cores in it and 256GB RAM. If it’s a sealed, all-in-one, non-expandable product, it isn’t Pro.

StayPuftZombie:

Workflow teams from StarWars were the same narrow group that liked the trashcan. I’m getting worried about this upcoming “modular” Mac. The trashcan Mac was “modular” with a octopus nest of wires and boxes snaking from it. I don’t want a “modular” Mac. I want an expandable Mac.

scott:

I don’t think Apple considers developers Pros. They are building these machines for video and animation studios that buy dozens at a time. Why would this Apple care what a single developer thinks if they’re only going to buy one pro machine every 5-10 years? I don’t agree, but...

Sebastiaan de With:

I have to say, though: this makes no sense to me. Pros need new Mac hardware more than anything, and it’s needed yesterday. You can’t research for all current (and future) workflows. The Mac Pro is half a decade old. Release. a. new. one.

John Martellaro:

I’d like to add something, however, that hasn’t been widely discussed. And that is the notion of technical admiration and aspiration versus mere aesthetic design.

Update (2018-04-09): Benjamin Mayo:

It’s certainly interesting that rather than questionnaires or soliciting phone calls, Apple is actively hiring these creative professionals in-house. […] I guess the danger here is that you tune too heavily towards the workflow team’s base of talent, which is currently composed of video artists, animators and music technicians. Requirements from other fields — of which the ‘pro’ market is very vast — may be de-prioritised or ignored entirely. Software development comes to mind.

Update (2018-04-14): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast, The Talk Show.

Update (2018-08-23): Steve Troughton-Smith:

Nvidia’s new RTX 2080 Ti is a mind-bogglingly-powerful GPU; that very likely means Thunderbolt 3 isn’t gonna come anywhere close to maximum performance as eGPU. that new Mac Pro better be something, because otherwise Mac users are gonna be left behind in a graphics revolution

It does suck that if you want a GTX 2080 Ti-like performance in a Mac, the only option you have is “wait 5 years and maybe AMD will have something as powerful that Apple’s comfortable shipping”. This is precisely why the Mac Pro needs to exist, and why it needs to have PCIe slots

27 Comments

Five years to figure out how to build a modular desktop computer? 'Only Apple' indeed...

As Justin Flood says above, it sounds like they are overthinking this way too much. 10-dimensional chess for what should be a free throw.

This latest news just makes it seem like they've lost any remaining touch with what their customers have been asking for the last seven years. Customers who have been dutifully standing outside their stores with money in hand.

From the MacRumors article: "Apple's Pro Workflow Team finds and addresses the issues that come up, even down to tiny details like tweaking a graphics driver"

Is that why the current MacOS update shipped with glaring WindowServer regressions that lead to kernel panics when using secondary display apps? These are the kinds of apps that are used by pros. In 2010 I reported rather noticeable dithering artifacts when using 6-bit + AFRC displays (at the time the only affordable IPS monitors) with certain GPUs in Macs. Never fixed. My parents had to buy multiple USB wifi dongles because Apple left the Lion WiFi drivers in a broken state on the mid-2007 MacBook where packets would drop every few seconds. Apple says they care about pros but their actions show that pros are the last on the list.

It's frustrating because I have such an investment in the Mac platform — four figures' worth of 3rd party apps and thousands of hours of familiarity using them and the OS — but how else can I react to this news except to realize that the OS and pro hardware teams at Apple just can't seem to make it happen anymore? How else can I respond aside from begrudgingly making plans for moving on? I say 'begrudgingly' because I will now have to spend a not-insignificant amount of time, effort, and money to switch, all because the richest company in the world can no longer ship reliable products on a reliable schedule.

I sold my 2010 Mac Pro last week, and am currently dual-booting Windows 10 and MacOS on a Haswell PC I put together for $400 and some spare parts I had lying around. So far the MacOS experience is perceptibly snappier than the Mac Pro was, and I now have a modern CPU and GPU that will run circles around most of the actual Macs Apple currently ships, and will ship for years to come. Why wouldn't I use something that's better in nearly every aspect that's important to me and how I use a computer?

[…] once again left in limbo as they await a reinvented high-end Mac. I hope it’s worth the wait, but several professional users have indicated that they don’t trust Apple to get it […]

"what if the Mac Pro were the first ARM-based Mac?"

Disaster. NOBODY wants that.

Gruber writes: "but that they’ve changed course and decided that the best way to serve pros is to work with them hand in hand"

Maybe, maybe not. Their pro user focus group might well be _too_ elite. It does nobody any good if they guide Apple into making the computing equivalent of a RED digital cinema system, that is priced out of the reach of many potential customers.

Rethinking the Mac Pro from the ground up is why it failed the last time, and I saw no stated reason why the same stance is supposed to work this time around. Just an assertion that it’s going to. Looks like Apple is simply culturally incapable of not shipping trash cans.

It doesn’t take a Pro Workflow Team to be establish that different Pro’s in different Pro sectors create their own Pro workflows to address their own Pro needs. Hell, different Pro’s in in the same sector have entirely different workflows.

All we need from Apple is a Pro machine that can be adapted, by us, to meet our individual Pro needs, budgets and workflows - you know, like the PC guys have. Like we used to have.

How this then can be spun as “fantastic news for Pro users” as Gruber suggests is a mystery to me. If anything, I’d say it illustrates quite the opposite

Gruber writes: "But overall this story is fantastic news for pro users — it shows Apple not only cares about the pro market, but that they’ve changed course and decided that the best way to serve pros is to work with them hand in hand."

No, it just shows that Gruber is unable to recognize communication bullshit anymore.

If Apple had a real QA team, they would not need to hire "customers" to do QA.

I'm not sure to understand the fiscal argument since from an accounting point of view, it requires more than 1 year to redeem a purchase in many countries. Or is it just another BS to try to save the iMac Pro sales?

When I hear "modular" from Apple I fear another new proprietary connector :(
We've had thunderbolt, and lightning. Perhaps the next one will be very, very frightening!

@someone I actually agree with Gruber that the Pro Workflows Group sounds great and is a bit of a change of course. But—other than the decision to talk about it now—it seems unrelated to the Mac Pro news, and I don’t think it balances it out to make the overall story positive.

The fiscal argument seems pretty simple: they want you to feel comfortable spending your 2018 budget on an iMac Pro rather than waiting for a Mac Pro the won’t arrive. It doesn’t matter if it takes more than one year to claim it for taxes. Am I missing something? Yes, this will help Apple’s sales, but I think it also helps customers.

Apple could announce that it was replacing all its Bluetooth connectivity with CB radio and John Gruber would praise it as “daring”. He’s Tim Cook’s own Smithers.

> But overall this story is fantastic news for pro users — it shows Apple not only cares about the pro market

If they cared, they'd give this thing a higher priority than "2019".

Liam Greenwood

Thunderbolt isn't an Apple proprietary connector any more than USB was when Apple put it on the first iMac.

Now that I think about it, after the roundtable news, even Arment, Liss, and Siracusa - who on some level acknowledge the abusive relationship they’re in with this company - were straining to give Apple as much credit as possible for how early it had recognized that the pro users who had established its cachet long ago had better be kept alive on a subsistence diet rather than allowed to completely starve to death. Maybe as much as six whole months? Sorry, gentlemen. We now know it had been more like six days. Just enough time to summon Gruber and similarly subservient writers to take dictation.

I half expect Tim Cook to come onstage at the next WWDC in an Immortan Joe mask and growl that we shouldn’t let ourselves become weakly dependent on CPU cycles.

I think Apple's designers and engineers are over thinking it, only because I believe that the company's environmental stances are a major factor in product development. The current design philosophy that make things ever thinner and lighter also reduces the amount of resources needed to make a that thing and then after recycle that thing when its lifespan has ended.

Based on the previous Mac Pro I assume Apple sees the classic tower cases as waste. The challenge in reducing that waste and still be able build a system that can be modular enough to accept multiple cpus, multiple graphics cards, storage options, etc and still meet performance goals along with raw material usage must be difficult.

As ever, Apple seems blinded by its own marketing.

There's mention of software developers; games designers; data-scientists; or researchers in maths, physics and medicine. Just the designated cool professions in the arts and humanities.

In a world where all[1] the major deep-learning frameworks are NVidia only, Apple has gone 6 years without shipping a machine -- even on desktop -- with an NVidia card. And while the press are enthused by CoreML its utility is limited. A former colleague of mine in statistics monitored sea-level temperature changes globally. He needed a cluster of GPUs to do this. Only NVidia sell the hardware to do this, only Tensorflow supports this approach, and consequently there was no machine that Apple could sell him that matched his needs.

This is not to say that his or my needs are better than others. Neither is it to say that Apple should not pursue new form factors in its consumer-level products. This is just to say that PC makers can ship machines that match a broad variety of professionals' needs, whereas Apple persists in designing itself into corners where only prosumers find value.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_deep_learning_software

Apple were capable of shipping cheese graters for a decade - 2003 until 2013. Like most others here I hope they do ship one again, rather than a modular successor of the trashcan.

My guess is that Apple is resisting a new cheese grater not because they are obsessed with size or appearance, but because they don’t want to ship a device that needs as many watts of electricity as a cheese grater would to be as capable as the existing ones. Part of Apple’s move towards 100% renewable energy (which I am in favor of) involves using as little as possible energy for their new devices. Asking Apple for a 2018 cheese grater is a little like asking Tesla for a gasoline car. If anyone thinks my guess is wrong - please speak up - I’m hoping I am wrong...

The problem (for me, and probably others for whom the “pro” in Mac Pro involves video & photos) is that I don’t see how the ‘storage options” in a new, modular Mac Pro will match the current 50+ TB of internal storage, while booting on a SSD that my still heavily in use 2009 Mac Pro has and can have. I am looking forward to new stuff like Thuderbolt 3, ability to have multiple 5K/4K displays from the default GPU card, ability to enter a login password with your Apple Watch, etc. etc. but I don’t want to have to hang on to my ancient, 2009 Mac Pro to act like external storage. Go to apple.com and see what they recommend these days for 50TB of external storage: it costs over $5K, more than twice the cost of my Mac Pro and I’m guessing more than twice the fan noise.

The image that comes to mind suddenly is Apple having a concept of a Mac Pro as being like the desktop equivalent of a RED digital camera system.

Which would be neat. But out of the price range of anyone but Apple's own very very VIP consultants. And isn't really what people want.

"want you to feel comfortable spending your 2018 budget on an iMac Pro rather than waiting for a Mac Pro the won’t arrive"

If you need a PCIe slot, there's no getting comfortable with an iMac Pro. Or even the 2013 Mac Pro.

@Invisible Techie
When it comes to sustainability, recycling is the option of last resort because it often means 'down-cycling' the materials into less-valuable uses with each cycle, until it ultimately ends up as waste anyway. Reducing the materials used from the outset, and being able to reuse those materials directly over time is much more important.

So while reducing materials used in manufacturing is indeed very important, the 2013 Mac Pro is so small that it may lead to more net materials usage because most of its components cannot be easily upgraded (or upgraded at all). A slimmed-down tower that foregoes optical drives, 3.5" bays, and an internal power supply is not that difficult to make. There are many such options to choose from in the PC world, and Apple in particular wouldn't be restricted by MicroATX or Mini-ITX form factors.

Also, there's nothing stopping Apple from using something other than aluminum! The quality and rigidity of the iPhone 5c's plastic was amazing, for example, and I would have paid a premium to have it on an iPad or MacBook.

Furthermore, there are plenty of research efforts underway regarding sustainable polymers at various universities. Apple could use some of its cash hoard to accelerate this type of research and create sustainable alternatives for cases and other electronic components, but so far they seem intent on continuing to extract materials from the (very non-renewable) lithosphere because they prefer the aesthetics of aluminum.

Ted T: "My guess is that Apple is resisting a new cheese grater not because they are obsessed with size or appearance, but because they don’t want to ship a device that needs as many watts of electricity as a cheese grater would to be as capable as the existing ones."

1) Telling customers to use external drives and GPUs doesn't reduce the wattage used by those external devices.

2) If Apple wants their Pro machines to be electrically efficient, they could just sell reasonably priced, efficient Apple-designed power supplies that can be installed as easily as a generic PC power supply. This shouldn't be difficult.

Then Apple PR could cite the specs of a base model with a low-wattage power supply in advertising. But customers with needs for more power could, at time of order or later, buy an upgraded power supply. Configuring a machine online could trigger an automatic upgrade to the lowest capacity power supply that is sufficient for the configuration, helping avoid people configuring a machine with too much power draw or too little.

This would have the advantage that Apple's power supplies would probably be more efficient than the power supplies used by external device vendors.

3) I don't actually believe that Apple's "renewable energy" story includes power used by devices sold to the public. They have no way to know if a Mac is running off solar or if it's running off of a poorly-maintained gas generator belching soot into the atmosphere. I'm pretty sure such claims involve only power used by Apple facilities and maybe during manufacturing of Apple products. There'd be no way for Apple to buy enough renewable capacity to balance the energy usage of all the devices it sells, as well.

Oh man, the contortions Gruber had to go through to find a positive. I just don't agree here. Apple is mistaking vague proclamations as communications and I still feel this is nothing more than obfuscation. This is a smokescreen masquerading as transparency.

I just think Apple thinks they are so much better than everyone else, that they cannot bring themselves to build a box like everyone else. Their perception of their own superiority blinds them from actually pleasing their customers.

I also think since Tim Cook it seems like his secret weapon is selling incredibly old hardware. The Mac Mini is a disgrace. the Mac Pro is a disgrace.

Apple's ability to ship desktops (not all in ones) is gone far beyond a joke, especially given the speed which one is able to develop such hardware these days and the fact that they can use off the shelf internal components. Their announcement reads to me like "we haven't actually started yet, but we plan to".

If the Mac Mini and Mac Pro were software, they would almost be considered abandonware.

If I needed real power for my profession, I think I would be frustrated and angry. This level of lack of empathy for the needs of the customer would cause any other company to fail, I think Apple is abusing the loyalty to Mac OS (and afforded the chance to do so on iPhone profits). Apple used to stick it to the man. Now they have become the man. Bad show Apple.

I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew Watson. Since 2012 Apple has been making hardware decisions that forces Mac users who care about upgradeability, user-serviceability, and value to make one of two difficult decisions whenever it is time to purchase another computer: (1) accept Apple's compromises (soldered RAM in most products, soldered storage in the MacBook and MacBook Pro, hardware many generations behind Intel's and AMD's current CPU and graphics offerings) in order to stay in the Mac OS X ecosystem, or (2) abandon the Mac OS X ecosystem. I have a 2013 Mac Pro that I bought a year ago after Apple discounted the prices of them, and so I will remain a Mac user as long as it still works, but I'm in the market for a new laptop and I don't know if it will be a Mac or a PC. I feel like I'm stuck between making two choices that I'm not excited about: (1) buying a new Mac laptop and dealing with the keyboard issues, the soldered storage, and the sheer expense, or (2) buying a PC laptop and dealing with Windows 10 (which I've tried and just can't stand) or Linux (which I like but lacks support for some commercial software packages that I need). Unfortunately with the way things are going regarding Apple, perhaps I'm going to have to give Windows 10 another shot, since I don't see Apple's business practices changing anytime soon.

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