Will Apple Release a New MacPro?

Posted on by Larry

One of the web mailing lists I that I read regularly is IMUG – a great resource for anyone involved in media production or post.

This morning, Paul Isbicki asked “…do any video pros REALLY believe that APPLE will make a turnaround move and release a new Mac Pro that will justify the inordinately long wait?”

I’ve gotten this a lot from my newsletter readers and wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on this.


I’ve written three blogs about the MacPro.

The issue of the life or death of the MacPro gained traction in April and May of 2012, when Lou Borella posted a Facebook page called “We Want a New MacPro.”

In it, Lou asked Apple for clarity on whether the MacPro was dead. In a response Tim Cook stated that a new MacPro was in the works for 2013. However, his wording was a bit squishy and, not surprisingly, a great debate ensued about “what Tim Cook really meant.”

Shortly thereafter, Apple PR clarified that Tim’s comments were correct, that a new MacPro was slated for release in “early 2013.” This was reported by David Pogue, Technology Editor for the New York Times. Read David’s entire post here. (I confirmed this with David in a series of private emails after his column.)

In early June, 2012, I then wrote in one of my blogs:

Here’s my guess on what’s going on. I think that Apple decided a couple of years ago not to update the MacPro – that was the word I was hearing on the street. Then, less than a year ago, they changed their minds and decided to update the machine. However, hardware update cycles are lengthy and it takes time to create all the parts, which is why the system won’t be available, according to Pogue, until next year.


That’s the background. What about now?

For me, the answer is absolutely yes, Apple will release a MacPro, sometime in the first half of this year. (My guess is WWDC, but that’s just a guess.)

I have four reasons for this:


I haven’t been privy to Apple’s hardware plans since Steve Jobs returned to the company. So, I am speaking theoretically, I do not have any inside knowledge of Apple’s hardware plans.


Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and someone I have never met, has a reputation for honesty and straight-talk. On June 2012, he issued an email in reference to the MacPro that “Apple was working on something great for 2013.”

That this comment was specifically related to the MacPro was confirmed by Apple PR to the New York Times, Forbes and MacWorld and reported in Ars Technica.

While I don’t have any experience with Mr. Cook, I have a LOT of experience with Apple PR. They don’t confirm ANYTHING about future Apple products. For Apple PR to confirm the relevance of Mr. Cook’s statements tells me that Mr. Cook’s statements were officially approved.

When Tim Cook made his comments in mid-2012, the professional media world was still in chaos after the launch of Final Cut Pro X. While Mr. Cook spoke almost nine months after the launch, feelings were still running very high.

It could be argued that it was in Apple’s best interest to calm their most important developers and professional users. But, promising new hardware is much harder and longer to implement than offering discounts on training, services, software — in other words, Apple could have chosen an easier way out.

But they didn’t. They promised a MacPro.


At first glance, there is no significant financial benefit for Apple to update the MacPro. In their world of $50 billion quarters, the revenue a MacPro brings in amounts to a few hundred million dollars. While, personally, I would not look askance at a product that generated a hundred million dollars, Apple uses different metrics.

Yet, when given an opportunity to kill off the MacPro – because the professional world was already angst-ridden and depressed – they didn’t. They promised something better.

Again, Apple did not take the easy way out. This, also, reassures me that a new MacPro is coming.


In spite of the fact that the world is moving “post-PC,” and that consumers are flocking to tablets and smart-phones to consume content, someone still needs to create this stuff.

For developers and media creators, speed, power, flexibility, interconnectivity are still critical. While it is nice to create a home movie on an iPad, I would certainly not want to create Avatar on one.

As I’ve written, the new iMacs are fast and well-suited for most computer tasks. But not everything.

If Apple cedes the high-ground of computing power to Windows/Linux systems, they lose the ability to control what developers develop or media creators create. If a developer is creating media on a Windows system, they will naturally tend to want to make sure that content plays first on Windows devices. Same thing for Android.

It seems obvious to me that Apple’s long-term health requires it to provide developers and media creators with high-performance hardware tools that keeps them on Apple hardware.

As Paul Isbicki wrote in his posting: “What will the future bring for editing, Grfx, 3D, Photoshop, Illustrator, animation? How ’bout CAD and CNC, architecture, design, a thousand apps relying [on the power of a professional system.]?”


On the other hand, I had a long series of emails with Tim Kolb last year about this very point. Tim argues that high-end Mac systems have not kept up with Windows systems since about 2005.

Tim summarizes comments I’ve heard from many others, pointing to the death of the XSERVE, XRAID, the huge performance issues of ProRes on Windows, the callous death of Final Cut Pro 7 — all pointing to Apple’s abandonment of the professional market in favor of becoming a consumer company. In this view, Apple is willing to relinquish the high-end in hopes that the size of their consumer market compels continued development and support for the platform.

Apple itself has provided a lot of arguments that it is not deeply interested in the professional market.

UPDATE – Jan. 27, 2013

I woke up this morning with an insight. Apple is no longer focused on the professional market; the staggering numbers surrounding the iOS market makes that statement abundantly true. However, Apple does not need to focus on the professional market in order to create products for the professional market. It has thousands of staff engineers that need high-end power tools to create the magic that is in all Apple products. Apple knows what’s needed in a high-end product.

I think Apple has been constrained – first, internally, by deciding whether or not to continue developing the MacPro ; then, second, once the decision was made to go forward, with the availability of the right chips – in advancing the MacPro.


No one doubts that Apple is working on new hardware. That’s what Apple does for a living. The key question is who is the target market for that hardware and what will it do?

I also don’t doubt that Apple will release a new MacPro. However, when ever Apple releases the new MacPro, it won’t look like a Windows system. It won’t use off-the-shelf components that you can buy at Fry’s. It definitely won’t be ugly and it won’t be like the MacPro we have now.

But it will be designed to maximize speed, power, and flexibility. It will heavily feature Thunderbolt for connectivity. And it may not even be called the “MacPro.”

Tim Cook said that “something really great” is coming from Apple in 2013. I tend to believe him.

As always, let me know your comments.


43 Responses to Will Apple Release a New MacPro?

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  1. Marcus Moore says:

    “What happens if Apple goes with Thunderbolt v2 at 100 Gbps?


    Larry, I did some checking in the last few days for an article of my own on MacPros, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any Thunderbolt speed increase on Intel’s roadmap until 2014.

    So while TB can solve some expansion problems, anything that requires 8 or 16 lane is out for now, so I don’t see how the MacPro does away with PCIe for anything they release this year.

  2. Ken Ackerman says:

    This is certainly a very interesting question to those of us who are running Mac Pros. Your logic seems sound in the “Pro” column, but I, for one (as a hobbyist), am almost beyond caring any more.

    My rationale? Money! My logic: If I find it extremely difficult to part with $450 (or more) to upgrade my graphics card (still using GT120), how in the world will I be able to afford the new & improved Holy Grail?

    Experience shows me the following:

    1) There’s a reason Apple is not some lean & scrappy outfit that it once was, teetering on the edge of extinction. The unofficial business model they embrace can be called “skimming”.

    2) Put another way, the “Magic” (as Larry states) they put in their products is not cheap. It is something that captures imaginations as avant-garde, exciting, novel and definitely NOT me too-ish. Further, once the imagination is captured, the wallet opens quite wide and is ripe for picking. Key words are: Early Adopters With Disposable Income.

  3. Craig says:

    I suspect part of the reason for the long wait on the MacPro replacement is having to work with technology not yet available. Currently there are no Xeon processor motherboards with Thunderbolt. Currently all Thunderbolt systems are using GPUs on the motherboard. If the MacPro replacement is to use Thunderbolt then it’s likely they are either working with Intel or possibly designing a motherboard (Interesting that Intel announces they’re winding down motherboard production at this point). So when so say Apple is interested in a high end machine, one has to consider that if they are, they’re using bleeding edge technology.

    There’s also the market conditions and Apple’s business to consider. Apple, across their product line, now design things that need to be replaced more frequently as some have pointed out about the iMac (inability to replace GPU). While I suspect the MacPro replacement won’t be so rigid, I have a hunch they’re thinking about how to move you to replace it. My own guess is we’ll see another radical change when Thunderbolt moves to Optical. While it’s 4x PCIe now, it would be able to handle 16x PCIe which probably would allow the use of external GPUs. If you are a high end user, it’s quite possible that the MacPro replacement you buy in 2013 may still result in a motivated replacement in 2015.

    Keep in mind that not only is the MacPro “niche” compared to other Apple products, workstation power is itself a niche market. Apple may design it to fit into more higher end workflows with additional flexibility.

    Not only is it a niche market but it has a extremely long replacement cycle currently. Look at the FPX GPU situation. While Apple only lists the 5770 and 5870 for MacPro 2010 and up, consider the numbers that upgraded their 2006-2009 MacPros to run FCPX. That hurts Apple’s computer sales further. Apple doesn’t benefit by the long replacement cycle. Keep in mind FCPX also uses AVX technology on Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips not in any current MacPro. Apple is strongly motivated to get you to replace your MacPro.

    The MacPro also has a very big halo effect on the rest of the product line. I don’t doubt that MacPro users may also have a MacBookPro for mobility and maybe a MacMini or iMac for “home” use. I wouldn’t be surprised if most MacPro users own at least a couple of other Apple products. Thunderbolt makes it immensely easy to move Video I/O and Storage from workstation to your other Macs. Of course users are likely going to use iPhones and iPads as well.

    Apple doesn’t sell “computers and iOS devices” they sell an ecosystem that one ties into with all things Apple. Any ecosystem has a top of the food chain which, although sparsely populated, has a major impact on the survival and flourishing of that ecosystem.

    This MacPro replacement is not an afterthought. It’ll be pivotal.

  4. Marcus Pun says:

    To me the biggest weakness in the MacPro line is it has lagged as far as pricing and performance. I was torn about what to do a year ago about a new computer but the FCPX issue made it easy. I built my own high performance PC, comparable in performance to a 12 core Mac thanks to overclocking for less than half the price, which in turn gave me my CS5.5 upgrade, Avid 6 upgrade and a DSLR. That is what Apple has to fight against and I do not think they can whip a rabbit out of their hat at this point.

  5. Jon Schilling says:


    You said that Thunderbolt V2 would be 100 Gbps?

    Currently it’s 10Gbps via copper, V2 (optical) as far as I know is 20Gbps, not 100Gbps.

    Am I wrong?

  6. Larry,

    All good my friend.

    Tbolt V2 (20Gbps) will be via optical & indeed a 10X improvement over the current V1 @ 10Gbps.

    20Gbps as you know is 2000 MBps (that’s Megabites, with a big MB) pretty darn fast.

  7. Don says:

    @Craig: great post, but you still see Apple as a computer company. They’re a mobile company. In their view, this is a *post* PC world. Here are the latest quarterly results (ref: http://bit.ly/146epMZ):
    “iPhone unit sales reached 47.8 million… company sold 22.9 million iPads… Apple sold 4.1 million Macintosh computers …”
    Eco-system? Yes! Mac Pro on top? No! iOS is at the top. Wa-a-a-a-y at the top. Mac desktops are endangered — likely unprotected.

  8. Marcus Moore says:

    @Don. There’s no reason they can’t be both, and they are. Just because they’ve been more successful than anyone else at spinning their computer business into mobile offerings does not count as a point against them, by any rational standard. And as Larry points out, Apple as a computer company that WANTS development to continue on THEIR platform.

    iOS needs the Mac. How would iOS development work if Apple walked away from that side of the business.

    You’re argument is like saying you can’t be a good editor and a good father. This is especially nonsensical when you have entire divisions within Apple working separately on those product lines.

  9. dr.no says:

    20 Gbps = 2500 MB/s

    10 Gbps * 2 = 20 Gbps. so it is 2x not 10x
    Mind you this is theoretical maximum speed.
    just like 10 Gbps is not giving you 1250 MB/s currently.
    SSD is not saturating 10 Gbps currently and wont in the
    near future either. It is faster to send a IP packet to Europe
    than it is to send to the screen.

    The reason Mac Pro is stuck with old GPU cards is that
    Apple doesn’t want to update drivers for old OS version for newer
    GPU but that doesn’t stop NVidia to sell you the
    new card with new drivers.

  10. Butch says:

    Here’s the thing…I don’t doubt Tim Cook’s honesty I doubt his vision and the late Steve jobs’ vision for that matter as it relates Apple making products for content creators. At the end of the day when Tim Cook said something “great” was in the works I immediately felt he may have been/is out of touch and I’m not sure his idea of something that’s “great” is not completely different from mine or most people that make a living using this stuff.

    My suspicion is that his “Great”, as it related to the Pro Media space, is a glorified MacMini and/or a glorified iMac…I mean that’s more or less been their strategy for the last several years…make it smaller and faster based on Apple metrics that don’t correspond with actual industry standards.

    I’m waiting to see what it is, but honestly I’m not expecting much.

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