Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Apr 2017 00:02 UTC

As we learned this week, the 2013 trash can Mac Pro is going to... Well... The trash can. Apple has promised a new "modular" Mac Pro for sometime after 2017.

In the light of this news, I thought it would be interesting to look back a model, to the "cheese grater" Mac Pros Apple sold from 2006 until 2013.

The cheesegrater is a truly iconic Mac. I love it.

On a related note, here's some interesting tidbits and nuggets I've picked up regarding the new Mac Pro from people and sources who know their stuff. The Mac Pro was in limbo inside Apple. The decision to go ahead and develop a modular Mac Pro replacement seems to have been made only in recent months, with development starting only a few weeks ago, which makes it clear why Apple said it won't ship this year. I have no idea how long it takes to develop a new computer like a Mac Pro, but I think we can expect the new Mac Pro late 2018 at the earliest, but most likely it won't be until early 2019 before it ships.

What made Apple do a 180? Well, after the announcement of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, orders for refurbished "old" MacBook Pros supposedly went through the roof, and after the initial batch of reviews came out, they shot up even higher. This response to the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar took Apple completely by surprise. Combined with the problems surrounding the LG UltraFine 5K display and the constant negativity from professional Apple users, the company decided to double down on professional users.

As Apple announced, we'll be getting a new Mac Pro and an iMac Pro as a result. In addition, Apple is said to be exploring additional Retina MacBook Pro models without the Touch Bar, and other pro-oriented features, such as hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device.

All in all, there is definitely excitement in the air regarding professional Mac use, and to be honest - that's been a while. Personally, I'm still very cautious, because in the end, all we got yesterday was a more official version of Tim Cook's endless "we've got great stuff in the pipeline, trust us!" meme that's been going on for a few years now.

Until we get it - and that may still be 2 years away - the new Mac Pro is vapourware.

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the future "modular"
by osvil on Thu 6th Apr 2017 11:32 UTC
Member since:

I do think that the idea behind the trashcan was not that bad, but the technology is not there yet and maybe the actual form factor wasn't that good either.

But going for external expandability is the way to go in my opinion. As external connections improve (and Apple has been an early adopter in many high performance external connectors) is going to be the way to go. Modular without the need to "open" a main module to fit the others in.

But then, you need a very capable external connector. This *must* include a way to have GPUs external without compromising any performance. Each module would be able to approach in its own way power consumption (and heat).

Just imagine stacking something like a mac mini that provides basic processor + memory and boot drive with your choice of GPU and maybe a set of disks/external storage. all that without having to open a box. It would also be great for servicing. A failure on the GPU will allow you to take it off and take it to servicing. Same with the CPU main/module. You could even use the functional parts of the computer if you fancy.

There is quite a bit of difference between this and just the usual "modular PC" like the cheese grater mac pro was. No need to open, no screws and connectors that are thought for users, no system assemblers. Very easy to add/remove hardware, and a very incremental path to upgrade.

But then, we're not quite there IMO as those external interfaces are still evolving. But we may be there soon.

Reply Score: 1

RE: the future "modular"
by avgalen on Thu 6th Apr 2017 11:42 in reply to "the future "modular""
avgalen Member since:

External expandability is great, and has been available on all pro-devices for a long time. The problem with the Mac Pro is that it ONLY had external expandability and no internal.
What I don't understand is that Apple now "updated" the Mac Pro with faster CPU/GPU but they haven't upgraded the Thunderbolt2 to Thunderbolt3. Basically they haven't made any updates at all, they just sell the old "high-end" model for the old "low-end" price

Just imagine stacking something like a mac mini that provides basic processor + memory and boot drive with your choice of GPU and maybe a set of disks/external storage

You don't have to imagine that, this already exists and you can buy it today....just not from Apple (hint, razor core)
You also don't have to imagine it only for high-end-pro machines. "turn your phone into the compute engine of a lapdock/deskdock" devices are starting to become available as well

Edited 2017-04-06 11:45 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: the future "modular"
by Chrispynutt on Thu 6th Apr 2017 12:15 in reply to "RE: the future "modular""
Chrispynutt Member since:

The answer for why no Thunderbolt 3 is simple. The Mac Pro is on an old architecture. The prosumer equivalent of the chipset is X79. For example since then we have had the X99 chipset, with two CPU gens. X299 is coming out later this year.

So the Mac Pro is stuck with DDR3, in a DDR4 world.
Thunderbolt 3 is just not possible.

What they are doing is just what they did with the last modular Mac Pro, bump any of the specs they can without changing any of the core design.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: the future "modular"
by osvil on Thu 6th Apr 2017 13:16 in reply to "RE: the future "modular""
osvil Member since:

You don't have to imagine that, this already exists and you can buy it today....just not from Apple (hint, razor core)
You also don't have to imagine it only for high-end-pro machines. "turn your phone into the compute engine of a lapdock/deskdock" devices are starting to become available as well

Which is actually my point. That was not so common when the mac pro was released. The connectors/protocols are still evolving (and may not cease to do so) and at the point of the trashcan were not ready for the task. Having the GPUs in the main system shows that.

Remember that the trashcan is limited to thunderbolt 2. Thunderbolt 3 has double the bandwidth (and it is still limited compared to PCIe x16) so you are making some sacrifices in there. So it is still not an option to base a "pro desktop" system on... unless you pick a solution that aggregates several thunderbolts to feed a single unit.

I *think* the capacity of connectors like thunderbolt is going to increase *faster* than their internal counterparts. Or, in any case, they will advance to the point of "don't care" for many users. But we are not there yet, at least for the "pro" market.

I wonder if Apple is going to take that direction or not. IMO to pull it out in a good way a faster thunderbolt would be needed. The "pro" machine would be one with many of those faster thunderbolts. In a sense, a "pro" iMac would be one with many thunderbolts. Ability to aggregate the bandwidth of several thunderbolt to achieve at least PCIe x8, ideally PCIx16 on an external GPU. In the case of an iMac add also the bandwidth to output the display to the native screen.

And no, the razer core is not that. It is a nice toy, but the bandwidth is not there.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: the future "modular"
by Sidux on Thu 6th Apr 2017 11:50 in reply to "the future "modular""
Sidux Member since:

Modular design can also mean moving the iPhone as the main processing device for casual applications and the "Pro" dock just for enhancing its abilities once the iPhone is being docked.
What form or shape it will come in remains to be seen.

Edited 2017-04-06 11:51 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: the future "modular"
by Parry on Thu 6th Apr 2017 13:34 in reply to "RE: the future "modular""
Parry Member since:

A Beowulf cluster of iPhones?!

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: the future "modular"
by Flatland_Spider on Thu 6th Apr 2017 15:52 in reply to "the future "modular""
Flatland_Spider Member since:

The current Mac Pro would make a great Mac Mini Pro. Getting stuck with 1x proc and 1-2x GPUs isn't a great look. It really needed to allow a much wider array of options. A chassis with the ability to accept some combination of 1-4x procs, 1-4x GPUs, or 1-6x Phis with 4x NVMe slots would have made people pretty happy.

An ecosystem like that would be great for laptops, and we're slowly getting there.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: the future "modular"
by laffer1 on Thu 6th Apr 2017 19:26 in reply to "RE: the future "modular""
laffer1 Member since:

That's actually a great point. The trashcan mac quad core could go for $1500 and it would still blow out the 2014 mac mini.

In reality, apple built a second g4 cube but made it a cylinder this time and that was a ripoff of the next cube. It failed in the market 3 times now. I wonder when they'll try it again.

Apple needs to finally give us all what we want:

1. Upgradable mac mini with optional real processor option (non ultrabook, quad core.. think 2012 mac mini high end)
2. Mac Pro with updated xeon cpus. Perhaps a lowend version with a 6800k.
3. Stock iMac with a core i7 reference chip.... 7700k or similar.
4. super slow, cheap beater mac mini with anemic CPU to compute with lowend HP garbage like Tim wants to build. (this is just for tim, i don't think consumers like it)

I should be able to walk into an apple store and come out with a computer containing:
1. At least a core i7 desktop CPU or better
2. 512GB disk space or better (SSD/nvme required)
3. 16GB or more. if it's soldered, 32GB.
4. Upgradable or double the specs on RAM and disk.
5. A GPU that can play games. It should be able to run diablo 3, starcraft 2 and WoW at max or near max settings as these are all old games at this point. 2 of these can be done with intel GPU.

I shouldn't have to special order it. I shouldn't have to watch my PC from 2013 smoke a new mac. (it's got a 4770 i7 and 32GB ram with SSD and Radeon Fury x nitro)

Prior to tim, we had progress:
1. Games were getting ported and ran. 90% of the games I wanted to play had mac versions too.
2. Apple had high end and low end macs. The lowend macs were a bit pricey still but one could save up for them. Apple always prices like everyone lives in new york city or cupertino ignoring how much money a mac is to a guy in nebraska.
3. Apple had ENTERPRISE hardware. Xserves, Xserve raid, a server OS that wasn't a total joke but needed work.
4. Apple had headphone jacks.
5. Apple had growth in iOS devices across the board.
6. Most people that had used a mac would recommend one.
7. Johnny Ive wasn't calling all the shots. The mac pro trash can should have never happened.

Reply Parent Score: 7