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Mac Pro update: Apple promises another pricey thing it will no doubt abandon after a year

Trash can trash machine from 2013 was design dead-end

By Thomas Claburn, 4 Apr 2017

Promising today that a new Mac Pro is being developed, Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller admitted the tech giant rather disappointed the workstation world by making its "most radical Mac ever" insufficiently expandable.

Schiller – along with SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi, VP of hardware engineering John Ternus, and Mac PR director Bill Evans – spoke with a handpicked group of favored journalists who were invited to Apple's headquarters in what appears to be an effort to counter discontent among professional power users.

Before John Gruber, Ina Fried, John Paczkowski and Matthew Panzarino, Schiller deviated from Apple's standard media playbook – no commenting on unreleased products – and promised the future Mac Pro would be "a modular system" whenever it appears, which won't be this year.

Apple did not respond to a request to confirm that this meeting actually took place.

According to Gruber's account of the meeting, "The word 'mistake' was not uttered, but this is about as close as we're going to get to Apple admitting they miscalculated with the current Mac Pro's concept. One word that was uttered, however, was 'sorry.'"

Apple has been here before. At its developer conference in 2012, after neglecting the Mac Pro for two years, the Cupertino idiot-tax operation released an underwhelming update with 3.2-GHz quad-core Intel Xeon W3565 processor or two 2.4-GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5645 processors, which was already outdated by Intel's 8-core Xeon E5 chips announced three months earlier and a three-year-old ATI Radeon 5770 graphics card.

In a blog post at the time, developer Marco Arment called the update "half-assed" and said, "The message is clear: Apple doesn't give a sh** about the Mac Pro."

Such sentiment was commonplace, and evidently prompted CEO Tim Cook, in an email to Facebook user Stephen Tanner, to break Apple's code of silence and declare, "We are planning a new Mac Pro for later next year."

At the end of the following year, on December 19, 2013, Apple released its "vision for the future of the pro desktop," a black cylinder "designed around an innovative unified thermal core."

It then proceeded to ignore the Mac Pro for more than 1,200 days.

The neglect prompted Arment to speculate last November that Apple has given up on the Pro market. Similar sentiment, not altogether justified, followed the October release of Apple's latest MacBook Pro, which is limited to 16GB of memory, due to heat and battery life constraints.

With the revised Mac Pro nowhere in sight, Apple on Tuesday released a minor speed bump update. The $2,999 model now has 6 Xeon CPU cores, up from 4, and dual AMD G500 GPUs, up from AMD G300 GPUs. The $3,999 model now has 8 CPU cores, up from 6, and dual AMD D800 GPUs, up from AMD D500 GPUs.

The unified thermal core that Apple celebrated as innovation turned out to be an obstacle to expandability. Schiller acknowledged that the Mac Pro was "thermally constrained" and Federighi said, "Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate."

Gruber asked whether Apple was aware how many people have begun to doubt the company's commitment to the needs of Mac Pro users.

Schiller responded, "It's a reasonable question, and this is why we're here today, specifically, to address that question above all else." ®

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