Apple has taken the rare step of pre-announcing major new products, confirming that it will release new iMacs later this year and a “completely rethought Mac Pro” at some point in the future.
The company also apologised to Mac Pro users for the neglect of the product line, which has gone three years without an update.
First released in December 2013, the Mac Pro represented a radical redesign of the company’s highest-powered machine. A sleek black cylinder, it was designed to create minimal noise while cooling its interior, and intended to be expanded largely with external peripherals through six Thunderbolt 2 ports. But Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said that the design had eventually ended up tying Apple’s hands when it came to replace the machine.
“I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will,” he told Apple blogger John Gruber. “We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialise to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
“Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate,” Federighi added. “So it became fairly difficult to adjust.”
Faced with the possibility of remaining silent for at least another year, compounding impressions that the company had abandoned pro users, Apple took the rare decision to instead pre-announce the update to the Mac line. Typically, Apple is firmly tight-lipped about updates until they are ready for sale.
Beyond its existence, and the fact that it won’t arrive in 2017, Apple didn’t share much else about the new Mac Pro. Phil Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said: “We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding Pro customers.” Schiller also confirmed that a new Pro monitor would be coming alongside the computer.
In the shorter term, Schiller confirmed that Apple is working on an update to the iMac, still the computer used by the majority of Apple desktop users, including the majority of professional users. “We have big plans for the iMac,” he said. “We’re going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the Pro customer in mind.”
“The iMac has seen an incredible evolution over the past decade,” Federighi added. “The original iMac you wouldn’t have thought of as remotely touching Pro uses. But today’s 5K iMac in its top configurations? It’s incredibly powerful. Tasks that previously would have required the Mac Pros of old are now being well addressed by today’s iMac.”
As for those users who need a new Mac Pro now, and can’t wait, the company has given the old machine a mild spec bump. The £2,999 entry level configuration will now have the specs previously given to the £3,899 model, while that more expensive model gains faster CPUs and GPUs.
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