Does the MacPro Have A Future?

Posted on by Larry

No one orchestrates surprise better than Apple.

The fever of excitement surrounding the launch of a new Apple product is the envy of every other consumer company in the world. Rumors, gossip, and eager anticipation create a potent mix for marketing.

But professional users are different. The shattering echoes from the death of Final Cut Server and Final Cut Studio (3) last summer are still reverberating throughout the industry.

The unnecessary, and unheralded, death of both these products killed businesses overnight, destroyed relationships, and alienated an industry. It wasn’t Final Cut Pro X that a caused the outcry, it was what died in its birth.

Professionals are not consumers – we are running companies, meeting payroll, and creating products using Apple tools.


Two months ago, Lou Borella sent me an email asking if I had any insight on the MacPro. I told him that I had just had a meeting with Apple where I asked them that question and they declined to answer. (This is not surprising because, as we all know, Apple does not comment on unannounced products.)

Lou told me he was going to start a Facebook petition to ask Apple to clarify its plans for the MacPro. This is Apple’s last remaining tower computer and a daily workhorse throughout the creative world. I told him that he could do what he wanted, but that Apple does not pay attention to petitions or respond to discussion groups on social media.

Still, he set up the page – – and I tweeted about it.

This last week, he caught the eye of Gizmodo – along with other Mac rumor sites – and his page exploded. More than 7,000 likes as I write this and adding more every minute.

There are two ways to view this: as a forlorn attempt to get Apple’s attention, or as a way to show that the MacPro is still relevant in today’s mobile society. This could go either way.

Apple locks its hardware plans LONG before any product is announced. The decision on the future life, if any, of the MacPro was made, probably, last year. Most likely, earlier than that. So, Apple already knows what it intends to do.

For those of us running businesses using a hardware tool that can not be sourced from any other vendor, it would be very, very helpful to know if it has a future life.


Here’s my thought: Apple hasn’t upgraded the MacPro since 2010 because it feels the market for it is too small. Combine that with Apple’s philosophy that it doesn’t pre-announce products and you have a perfect stew of insecurity for creative types.

But Apple’s philosophy doesn’t prohibit it from pre-announcing the death of a product. If sales are already so low as to not justify upgrading the MacPro, then there is no significant harm to Apple’s business to saying that the MacPro will be “End of Lifed” by such-and-such a date.

Conversely, if the market for the MacPro is large enough to justify updating it, there is no harm in announcing that the MacPro will be updated by such-and-such a quarter because the MacPro market is far smaller than any other computer hardware segment that Apple serves. Neither announcement would have any significant financial impact on Apple, but would be a SIGNIFICANT benefit to creative professionals planning their hardware purchases.


In my recent meetings with Apple, just before NAB last April, they told me that they wanted to give creative professionals a heads-up with where they were going with Final Cut Pro X. This was why they were having on-the-record meetings and sharing up-coming features with me. (You can read my entire report of that meeting here.)

Keeping us informed is a GREAT idea!!!

I sent an email to my contacts at Apple to see if they want to comment on this. I’ll let you know if I learn anything.

It has been obvious for the last couple of years that creative professionals no longer make up the bulk of Apple’s business – and that’s fine with me, I wish Apple every success. But because we are responsible for creating the content that Apple displays so wonderfully on all its consumer devices, it would be really helpful if Apple could share with us an outline of their future hardware plans for those tools that consumers will never buy and professionals can’t live without.

I mean, can you imagine what it would be like creating movies for an iPad on a Windows system?

Let me know what you think.


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39 Responses to Does the MacPro Have A Future?

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  1. Pk says:

    Hard to believe that apple would be so short sighted. Without a macpro many pros (businesses, employees, freelancers, etc) will have no choice but to move to windows based pcs. Students will have no reason to hone their craft on a Mac. Schools will be less inclined to purchase macs. These users will have less incentive to purchase iPhones, iPads etc because the benefits of integrating data on all devices will no longer apply – in essence the ‘halo” effect in reverse. Is it not in apples best interest to maximize exposure and use on all fronts???
    I’ve been using a Mac since ’85. I run my home office on a macpro. I’ve personally converted dozens of friends and family to become Mac users. For the first time in my life I find myself entertaining the idea of having to run a creative office with a windows box and the consequences of such a move.
    I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. The pro market may be small but can apple be so blind as to not realize the consequences and the bigger picture?

  2. Marcus Moore says:

    @Pk I really don’t think they are that blind. And my reasoning for this comes down to one idea. If there’s no MacPro, what is Apple itself going to use for those tasks? Apple needs a workhorse machine, even if it is only for 1% of it’s user base. The interesting part will be seeing if they just update the existing form factor, or if they have a more substantial plan for a workstation beyond the “tower”.

    The rumour mill abhors a vacuum. So unfortunately, the longer Apple remains silent, the more speculative commentary will be written to fill the void. But it’s all just talk until Apple pulls the trigger one way or the other.

    But I really hope they announce something soon- just so we don’t have to hear about it anymore!

  3. LeoHans says:

    Don’t forget we are just part of the pro market for Apple.
    There is a huge market of pro people that does not work with media: Developers.
    Serious programming projects needs a lot of CPU power to compile code. Even in a WWDC Apple talked about this.
    I think that if Apple has not released a new MacPro could be because one or more of the following:

    – Current state of processors does not justify new MacPro model.
    – There are plans for a different kind of Pro system (a new design with new technologies like optical fiber thunderbolt).
    – Retina display ready GPU.

    Current MacPro line is really fast. Perhaps MacPro power was not used until Lion and the 60bits apps. FCPX flies on it.

    Another thing to consider is that with thunderbolt (specially with optical no-yet released one) we are going to be able to add more RAM.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. Russtafa says:

    Ryan P and Craig pretty much sum it all up.
    You need to look at the Intel roadmap to understand where it is all headed.
    Maybe a “cross breed” Mac Pro Mac Mini is the way to go as long as all the Thunderbolt interfaces are in place.

  5. Karl Edwards says:

    I’ve been thinking about this… And I look at final cut pro x and I can’t help but think that it was designed as optimized for a laptop screen. when you consider that apples led cinema displays are essentially the same – designed to enhance the laptop experience… could macbook pros be the new mac pro?

    been on a mac pro tower all along and will miss having it sitting happily by my left leg each day but are we actually getting to the point with laptop speeds and thunderbolt where a large tower is not necessary any more?

    could be.

    still clinging to hope with final cut x…


  6. William Hohauser says:

    The clamor for a new new MacPro (and I am among them with certain conditions) brings to my mind something that has sort of been forgotten in our industry as we have become accustomed, even demanding, high tech turnover.

    I remember as surely many of you do, a time when professionals bought a major piece of equipment, be it photographic, motion picture or even video, and expected a lifespan of many years, if not decades. A friend of mine, a long time documentarian, still has his 35mm film camera (an Arri, I believe) he purchased in the 70’s although the call for it is nil at this point. Another industry acquaintance purchased a Roxbury animation stand in the seventies and although he is retired, the stand still operates. The first production house I worked for had an Ikegami 79A for a decade before moving to a chip camera. I am still using a JVC100 HD camera and it pairs up perfectly with their newer models for work that doesn’t require HDSDI quality recording (and there is a lot of that). My point is that Apple has built a tank with the MacPros (and even the G5s) and they know it. Many pros are happy with four and five year old MacPros and only a simple video card upgrade can make them FCPX/Motion powerhouses (not to include the potentials of cluster rendering). The big clog in my pipeline is DCP rendering and that is hampered by the software not the computer hardware.

    On to baseless speculation on my part: perhaps Apple doesn’t expect a 3 year turnover to be reasonable anymore (especially with chip development from Intel seemingly slowing down), maybe 4 or even 5 years just for the innards. For my money, if a new MacPro came out tomorrow and it was redesigned to actually fit in an equipment rack, I would be right there on line. If it was an incremental increase to 16 cores, well, that would be more of a balanced decision.

  7. Johan Lund says:

    If Apple puts the Mac Pro at “end of life” too early, a lot of professionals will abandon the Mac platform.
    Perhaps Apple is simply waiting for the iMac to become a viable replacement for most professionals and then ditch the Mac Pro, keeping the number of unhappy people at a minimum.

    The Thunderbolt interface allows for new drives and other external gear needing high speed. So you don’t need to take the iMac apart.

    Besides, the iMac is much sexier than the Mac Pro now. 🙂

    One thing I’m dreaming of though is to be able to add more CPU to an iMac. They invented this grand central dispatch to improve multi core programming. Now they have their own chip factory making many smaller CPU’s used in phones. I wonder if they will ever put a bunch of those in an external box and let you add more processing power. Maybe thunderbolt isn’t fast enough yet, but some day it will be.

  8. Paul Jay says:

    Buying BTO ram or SSD at Applestore is throwing away your money.

  9. Alan Lloyd says:

    > I mean, can you imagine what it would be like creating movies for an iPad on a Windows system?

    I do it regularly, for more than one client.

    Content now, at least for clients that intend to be around next year, needs – more than anything – to be “create once, view anywhere” and that’s how we approach it.

    Would you not buy a house because a carpenter had used a Craftsman rather than a Stanley hammer in some of the finishing work? Really? Because that’s exactly what you’re advocating here.

    I like using any sort of good tools, though I have yet to find one that makes a good basis for religion.

  10. Stef says:

    Great article, Larry! Here in Holland we have to rely on American blogs and sources, so we get the news even later 😉 But I’m already looking into the possibilities of combining a Hackintosh setup with, for example, an HP Z800. Hopefully Apple listens this time and continues upgrading the MacPro!

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