A world without the Mac Pro

Marco Arment lays out a list of the kinds of things that only a Mac Pro can deliver. The list is well thought out, highlighting the holes in the current Mac lineup. One in particular struck me as central:

The brand-new MacBook Pro maxes out at 16 GB and the iMac maxes out at 32 GB. The three-year-old Mac Pro can go to 64 GB from Apple or 128 GB aftermarket. Some pro workloads simply need more RAM than the consumer and mobile chips support.

And there’s also this:

If Apple doesn’t address someone’s hardware needs, there’s no alternative. We can’t just buy hideous Xeon workstations from Dell and install macOS on them. If we can’t do what we need on Mac hardware, our only choice is to leave the entire Mac platform.

But the competition isn’t even close.

My hope is that Apple has a new, upgradeable Mac Pro in the works. My worry is that they don’t.



  • TomCrown

    I really hope Marco does leave the Mac/iOS ecosystem, one less uninformed armchair quarterback would be a breadth of fresh air.

    • The Cappy

      His points are very cogent and detailed. Yours, on the other hand… You do a bit of ad hominem and then leave it at that. The comparison is hardly in your favor.

      • David Stewart

        Where are the details? He simply says things like “some pro workloads simply need more RAM than the consumer and mobile chips support.” OK, but that’s not specific enough to mean anything or lend itself to rational discussion. Some people also need exabytes of storage, should Apple cater to them too?

        • Person McPersonson

          I would think one wouldn’t need to qualify “some needs need more RAM” with specific examples to have a rational discussion. Is there anyone out there that believes there are no computing tasks that need more than 16GB or RAM?

          • David Stewart

            The question isn’t whether we can devise tasks to use more than 16GB of RAM. The question is who actually has a workflow that has that requirement. What are those workflows, what is the impact of having 16GB of RAM versus whatever the ideal is and what alternatives for those workflows exist?

          • rj

            This sounds like IT manager obfuscation. It doesn’t address Person McPersonson’s point at all.

          • David Stewart

            I’m not sure how asking for specific examples is obfuscation. The fact that no one has been able to provide a specific example and instead is talking around the issue and making ad hominem arguments demonstrates my point.

          • rj

            If you need examples, look at the comments in the article from a couple of days ago.

          • The Cappy

            People doing 3D need more that 16GB. (Often a lot more).

          • David Stewart

            3D what? CAD, Maya, animation, compositing, rendering?

            For what it is worth 16GB is the recommended amount of RAM for most 3D applications these days (more is obviously nice, though).

          • drx1

            My ’09 MacPro has 16GB of RAM… oye.

          • David Stewart

            My 1988 Apple IIgs had a qwerty keyboard. As technology matures specs start to stabilize.

          • jonny evans

            Exactly. It is a highly limited market. However I do think Apple accepts that a segment of Mac users exist who need a configurable desktop.

          • freediverx

            There definitely are, but they’re not that common. The main reason I see for wanting more RAM is for future-proofing an exceedingly expensive computer with non-user replaceable components.

            This is why I bought my MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM… 4 years ago. I’ve yet to encounter any situations where I come close to using up all the RAM.

        • freediverx

          The two examples I’ve read about that require more RAM are 4K video editing and hardcore software development.

          i don’t think Marco works on video, and I doubt he needed 64GB of RAM to compile Overcast.

          • David Stewart

            I’d be interested in hearing from someone doing either who has problems on the new Macbook Pros.

            You can edit 4K video on an iPad Pro and historically editors have worked at reduced resolutions because they don’t need the full resolution (hence the use of proxies).

            For software development 16GB plus a super fast SSD should handle any compilation task with ease. The only issue I’d see related to development is if someone was trying to run multiple VMs to simulate a distributed system.

            It will be interesting to see what the real world situation turns out to be once the new MBPs get out in the wild.

  • David Stewart

    There is a suspicious lack of specific examples in that post.

    I’d also point out that if the premise is “Mac Pros outclass every other model by starting with a huge performance lead, then working hard for years without breaking a sweat,” then crowing about the lack of fast upgrades is a bit odd. If they are so long lived, then what is the need for rapid refreshes?

    • USB-C ports at the very least. If USB-C is the future, then it should be on all Macs so we can get on with the transition.

      • David Stewart

        I suspect USB-C is coming to the whole Mac like as things refresh. It makes sense to hold on the Mac Pro refresh until next year when new CPU and GPUs ship.

        • That’s true David, although it would be nice if Cook had alluded to the fact that Apple is still supporting the Mac and “Pro” users during the MacBook Pro announcement.

    • The Cappy

      Where did he ask for rapid refreshes? The Mac Pro is a premium priced machine, maintaining its premium price with 2013 specs. A person can buy a machine in 2013 and be happy with the purchase for years, and that’s not in any way the same as buying a machine in 2016 with three year old specs that hasn’t seen any drop in price and which Apple hasn’t made upgradeable.

      • David Stewart

        A desire for quicker refreshed than every 3 years is implied through out the piece. I agree that buying on the trailing end of a product life cycle is different than buying on the front end, but I think that’s a different issue and one which any savvy consumer should be able to judge for themselves.

        • The Cappy

          They don’t have to redesign the thing. But why can’t Apple simply incorporate the new Xeons when they come out? They made an ostensibly upgradable GPU then never offered upgrades. Once again, remember that it’s not a question about BUYING a new machine every year. And it’s also about Apple charging huge amounts of money today for 3 year old hardware, without any price reduction. Why are people who pay top dollar to get the highest performance machine supposed to be satisfied STARTING OUT with 3 year old hardware? Seriously, have some empathy.

        • freediverx

          Tell that to a company or team who needs to buy some now.

      • freediverx

        That’s fine for someone who bought one in 2013… not so much for someone looking to buy one in 2017 at the same price with the same specs.

        What Marco and others are worried about is Apple’s commitment to supporting the pro community in the future. Many are concerned that they will abandon pro users and that their “Pro” line of products will simply evolve into a premium consumer product.

        Apple’s abandonment of Aperture certainly wasn’t a great sign, especially considering the dearth of suitable alternatives. Those who rely on Final Cut Pro and Logic must be getting nervous.

    • Billy Razzle

      The point was that without the Mac Pro none of their other computers would fill that roll.

    • drx1

      Three years is a long time to wait for a significant upgrade to any system. Often companies give road maps … Apple does not, yet for pro or enterprise stuff – it would be nice. There are always things that will push computers/machines. cryptography, 3D, 5K/8K video editing? Faster processing of 4K? VR development.

      And an idea or hint that Apple is still in the computer business…

      • David Stewart

        The major components of Macs are not under Apple’s control. They are stuck with Intel’s and AMD’s roadmaps for the core components. Businesses can look at those companies’ roadmaps to see what is coming up. Neither company is promising particularly significant near-term performance improvements so longer refresh cycles are probably the new norm.

  • ” If we can’t do what we need on Mac hardware, our only choice is to leave the entire Mac platform. But the competition isn’t even close.” Then you’re not going anywhere, right? So your little rant served no useful purpose…Bravo…

    • The Cappy

      Yeah Marco, just bend over and take it quietly. No wait, it did serve a purpose. It intelligently and cogently laid out the role and the need for a Mac Pro. Unlike your bit of snark, which truly served no purpose other than to showcase your lack of empathy and foresight. Bravo.

    • Mo

      It sounded more to me like a plea than a game plan. As such, it worked for me.

    • JimCracky

      Windows 10 is just fine. We use it here all day and we publish about 1000 pages in print per week, about 25000 to the web.

      We use Mac because we want to, not because we have to.

      Apple hubris is only dwarfed by blind defenders.

      • Person McPersonson

        Want has got nothing to do with it. Windows 10 is just fine. For many people macOS is better than “just fine.” They’re more productive on it. They get more done in less time. It matters.

        • George

          This kind of arrogance is what will push users like me and others back to Windows, or Linux. I love macOS but I can adapt, all my tools work just fine.

          Apple has decided to focus on a narrow population of users and ignore everyone else, which is fine, but something which saddens me personally since it could be so much better.

          • drx1

            Arrogance? Pot, meet kettle.

  • chjode

    To play devil’s advocate, my hackintosh is great and far more powerful for far less money than a Mac Pro.

    • The Cappy

      But you’re probably not using it in a production environment where flaky behavior is tolerable. That’s probably the difference. Probably for people just noodling around who want power, Hackintoshes are a viable choice. But true production environments have too tight a performance/time constraint. (If I’m wrong, I’d be interested to hear more details, because I’ve heard from too many people that it’s not viable)

      • JimCracky

        The flakiness of Hackintosh builds is usually spoken by someone who hasn’t used one.

        • rj

          Long ago, I worked with some intrepid IBMers who had installed OS X (Snow Leopard, I think) on their Thinkpads. Worked well, except IIRC there was no audio support and they were always scared to run Software Update, out of fear something would break. That would be my chief concerning with running a hackintosh.

          • JimCracky

            The hackintosh community solved those problems long ago.

          • Mo

            I’m genuinely happy there are hobbyists around who are willing to devote that much time to creating their own production tools.

    • Person McPersonson

      Legality aside, hackintoshes are fine for hobby computers. But a business can not rely on them. Who do you call for support? What happens when a video driver is flaky?

      • Mo

        This.

    • drx1

      Hackintoshes can be a fun experiment, if one has the time.

  • JimCracky

    Apple tells us what pros need.

    Pros tell Apple to shove it.

    Rise. Repeat.

    Windows 10 is used by millions of people. No one has died from it.

  • fustian24

    My guess is that Apple feels that they must include the Touchbar in any new mac. To do this in a MacPro would require they put it into the keyboard.

    I’m guessing there hasn’t been time to engineer one of these.

    And maybe there is a preference for staging this kind of thing to maximize laptop sales as well as to have things to announce every quarter or so.

    • Person McPersonson

      Agreed. I think the scarcity of Mac Pro updates is due to “if we wait a bit longer we can do this… oh now we’re doing that on the MacBook Pro, we have to do it here too… oh but this chipset is right around the corner”

  • jonny evans

    Hello, Jim and Dave. I can’t predict the future, but I’m keen to see what kind of horsepower Apple chooses to throw at the development and consumption of AR experiences next year. How much computing power does Oculus Rift require?

    • jonny evans

      ** or some other year.

  • drx1

    Waiting for the Mac Mini Pro – Cube!

    i5/i7 and maybe even a Xeon option – two PCI 3, 16 lane full length, double wide slots and a nice PSU upgrade option – if you want to run some mega video… two 5.25″ bays, two 3.5″ bays and – or maybe the smaller ones, 4 DIMM slots – and maybe an option for ECC for the Xeon setup.

    I think enough people would want an actual Apple/Mac computer! Traditional (non touch) OS and traditional hardware options. Call me crazy, but do not call me late for dinner. 0.o