Despite new CPU options, Apple reportedly questioning future of Mac Pro

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Despite the coming availability of a new generation of Sandy Bridge desktop CPUs suitable for advancing Apple's Mac Pro line, the company has reportedly been evaluating whether to continue to invest in furthering its full-sized workstation line beyond this year in the face of limited sales.



Although the Mac maker has reportedly developed a revision to the existing Mac Pro that may or may not see the light of day, people familiar with the matter said management as far back as May of 2011 were in limbo over whether to pour any additional resources into the product line.



According to these people, the consensus among sales executives for the Cupertino-based company was that the Mac Pro's days -- at least in its current form -- were inevitably numbered. In particular, internal discussions were said to focus around the fact that sales of the high-end workstations to both consumers and enterprises have dropped off so considerably that the Mac Pro is no longer a particularly profitable operation for Apple.



Another point reportedly raised during the discussions was that the advent of Apple's multi-use, high-speed Thunderbolt technology will ultimately allow other, more popular members of the Mac product family to assume the vast majority of the roles that once required the Mac Pro's and flexibility and architecture.



As it stands, notebooks currently make up a 74 percent share of the Apple's computer sales, according to sales figures and comments made by chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer in the company's latest quarterly earnings conference call this month.



Quarterly Mac sales just set an all time record of 4.89 million units; the company noted that while desktops are an increasingly small proportion of overall sales, there were still record sales of desktops, represented primarily by the iMac.



At the same time, Apple made no comment of the sales or future of its Mac Pro line of full sized desktop systems, the only machines it continues to sell with internal PCI Express expansion slots. However, over the last year Apple has deployed Thunderbolt to all of its notebooks, iMac and the Mac mini. Thunderbolt provides the same signals as PCI Express slots over a high speed external interconnect.



Armed with Thunderbolt, Apple's notebooks and consumer desktops can accommodate fast external storage, multiple external displays and specialized peripheral devices, even connect to external housings that supply conventional PCI Express slots for expansion cards, negating one of the primary unique features of the Mac Pro.







Apple's existing iMac and Mac mini designs can't accommodate the fastest, high end processors and graphics that the Mac Pro can, but there appears to be an increasingly limited market for high end desktops, particularly in comparison to the mass market sales Apple is seeing with its iOS devices like the iPad (which now outnumbers all Mac sales combined), as well as the company's more consumer-oriented notebook and desktop Macs.



Apple could choose to offer a new high-end iMac or beefed up Mac mini that packs enough power to approach the performance current Mac Pro, greatly simplifying its product lineup while having a very limited impact on sales. That would save the company the efforts of having to design and maintain a tower system.



Several months ago, Apple began to retreat slightly on its Mac Pro sales efforts when it ceased regular shipments of the $4,999 12-core to channel partners. Only a handful of the company's U.S.-based authorized resellers continue to list the product as a special order item, while others have pulled the configuration from their product database entirely. Those who have kept the model in their systems, like Amazon, have for months listed the configuration as "currently unavailable," advising customers that it doesn't "know when or if this item will be back in stock."



Selling what people buy



A year ago, the company similarly abandoned sales of the Xserve in response to limited sales, after first backing away from the server market by discounting the Xserve RAID.



Apple has since recommended the Mac Pro as an alternative to the Xserve, but has also introduced a limited duty server model of the Mac mini. This summer, Apple released Mac OS X Lion Server as a $50 package in the Mac App Store, signaling an intent to continue its server product but aim it at a "prosumer" home/office audience, with easier to configure software that lacks some of the previous version's sophistication and complexity.



As AppleInsider exclusively reported during the sum mer of 2010, the company similarly retargeted its high end Final Cut Pro to serve a more mass market prosumer audience, allowing it to add major architectural improvements to the software while making it more approachable and more affordable to the mainstream pool of customers who were actually buying it.
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Comments

  • ktappektappe Posts: 641member
    They need something more powerful than the Mac Mini but screen-less unlike the iMac. However, the Mac Pro is and has been a boat anchor. I mean seriously, that thing is unwieldy. No need for a huge hunk of aluminum like that in this day & age. I cringe whenever I have to deploy or service one.



    Why can't they utilize their expertise in ventilation and produce a fast thin octo-core unit that can stand upright if needed, and be turned on its side for rack mounting to replace the XServe? This rumor has been going around for a while and made so much sense that I am shocked to learn it might now not be happening.
  • icarbonicarbon Posts: 196member
    If it didn't cost more than a third-world Kidney transplant, I'm guessing more people would be mac pros.



    I never understood why they couldn't sell it as an infinitely upgradeable tower with cheaper starting components to make it a more affordable computer, sometimes people don't need everything that the desktop tower has to offer to want one.
  • aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,550member
    Slim the case down but don't stop making it. We rely on a MacPro that has run great for over four years now.



    I see where they are coming from but I like the internal drive bays. Yeah, I guess thunderbolt external drives here we come with a mini attached. It is inevitable...
  • sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 16,172member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post


    If it didn't cost more than a third-world Kidney transplant, I'm guessing more people would be mac pros.



    I never understood why they couldn't sell it as an infinitely upgradeable tower with cheaper starting components to make it a more affordable computer, sometimes people don't need everything that the desktop tower has to offer to want one.



    The vast majority of people just don't need them. The pro laptops and upper end iMacs have more power than all but the most demanding video editors might need. They run basically any video game well too. Still, there's no question the Mac Pro provides power that high end prosumers and professionals can't get elsewhere on the Mac platform.
  • gprovidagprovida Posts: 199member
    I really like the power and expansion capabilities of a tower, but the current price to substantially exceed the performance of a top of line iMac is $6000++, the gap in price seems enormous for modest albeit significant performance differences. I suspect a lot of Pro users find the top end iMac to be pretty darn good.



    My guess my next machine will be a top end iMac.



    If you need 3-4 displays, custom super performance graphics cards, and high speed internal bus, as well as custom cards, e.g., audio or signal processing, then a PRo is needed.



    Not sure anybody really makes a business of the top top end machines, but Apple probably does not want to loose that influential market, especially in sciences and movie industry.



    I wonder if Apple would license the OS on a few blades that might provide the high performance needs at minimum costs?
  • hittrj01hittrj01 Posts: 732member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post


    If it didn't cost more than a third-world Kidney transplant, I'm guessing more people would be mac pros.



    I never understood why they couldn't sell it as an infinitely upgradeable tower with cheaper starting components to make it a more affordable computer, sometimes people don't need everything that the desktop tower has to offer to want one.



    Because Apple never has and never will support just any piece of hardware you can buy off newegg. Even the stuff you can put in Mac Pros have to be specific models, if not even specific manufacturers (although that last part I'm not sure about). Letting you upgrade everything and anything to whatever would be too much overhead to be worth it to Apple.
  • thebestmanthebestman Posts: 9member
    I have a Mac Pro, but haven't done much to it other than add more hard drive space and memory since I bought it 3-1/2 years ago. (or was it 2-1/2??)



    Part of it is that Apple seems to have done little to upgrade it other than incremental bits.



    Not sure what it would take to make me upgrade it, but as it stands, it's super powerful to catalog photos, log my extra big iTunes library, and serve it's main purpose of home music recording/hooking up to a variety of instruments via USB/MIDI interfaces or FireWire.
  • kay_bobokay_bobo Posts: 13member
    Reduce the price or make something more powerful than the Mac mini in its place....
  • davidnessdavidness Posts: 32member
    Maybe the reason for limited sales is that many people, like me, have been waiting for a decent refresh. I would buy a refreshed/updated Mac Pro as soon as it came out. I have been waiting for quite a long time.



    The main reason I want a Mac Pro is I want to attach 2 large NON-GLOSSY monitors to my Mac.
  • kindredmackindredmac Posts: 153member
    We went from Mac Pros/PowerMac G5s to the top of the line 27" iMacs last year and they work just fine in our art dept. It's sad that this might be it for the tower Macs...
  • triplecoretriplecore Posts: 30member
    This has been my feeling too that they are slowly abandoning the high-end market, and the trend shows it. I do a bit of 3D work, so multiple cores are really ideal. But I had been contemplating going to the PC more and more for this kind of work. It's unfortunate since I love working on the Mac.
  • ortort Posts: 38member
    They have limitted sales because they rarely update them and they are WAY overpriced.



    It's time to come out with something cheaper. You could always buy a decent Mac tower for about $1,500 bucks in the past, and now the cost of entry is $2,600. It's ridiculous.



    A lot of people need something without a built in screen that you can actually open without needed suction cups.



    The sales of the Mac Pros suck because they don't put enough effort into making it a desireable product.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Posts: 483member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gprovida View Post


    I really like the power and expansion capabilities of a tower, but the current price to substantially exceed the performance of a top of line iMac is $6000++, the gap in price seems enormous for modest albeit significant performance differences. I suspect a lot of Pro users find the top end iMac to be pretty darn good.



    My guess my next machine will be a top end iMac.



    If you need 3-4 displays, custom super performance graphics cards, and high speed internal bus, as well as custom cards, e.g., audio or signal processing, then a PRo is needed.



    Not sure anybody really makes a business of the top top end machines, but Apple probably does not want to loose that influential market, especially in sciences and movie industry.



    I wonder if Apple would license the OS on a few blades that might provide the high performance needs at minimum costs?



    Can you help satisfy my own curiosity? Did you expand your own Mac Pro? If so, in what way? Did you add additional video cards? More disk drives? I'm curious as to how many people might have bought a Pro - just in case, but no case as arisen for the need to expand.
  • inkswampinkswamp Posts: 337member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post


    They need something more powerful than the Mac Mini but screen-less unlike the iMac. However, the Mac Pro is and has been a boat anchor. I mean seriously, that thing is unwieldy. No need for a huge hunk of aluminum like that in this day & age. I cringe whenever I have to deploy or service one.



    Why can't they utilize their expertise in ventilation and produce a fast thin octo-core unit that can stand upright if needed, and be turned on its side for rack mounting to replace the XServe? This rumor has been going around for a while and made so much sense that I am shocked to learn it might now not be happening.



    Totally agree with you. Apple could just rebrand the Mac Mini and scale it from low- to high-end box and have it all covered. A slightly bigger Mac Mini-style enclosure (maybe taller) that has user-accessible internals/slots with Mac Pro-like specs would be a killer product and probably a lot cheaper to produce and sell than the Mac Pros. And hell, with Thunderbolt, you could, in theory, eliminate a lot of the internal accessibility for upgrades and expansion demanded by high-end users.



    Obviously, I'm just talking out of my butt here, but it seems like a great direction for Apple to go and to further simplify their line-up (something that has always worked out well for them.) The low-end Mac Minis would be there for cost-conscious users, iMacs for casual and home business types, and this theoretical headless Mini/Pro hybrid would fill the high-end without all the drawbacks of the current Mac Pros.
  • zunxzunx Posts: 620member
    Apple should build a Mac mini Pro or a Mac Pro mini.



    With a matte display to complement.

    No fan (or very quiet at least).

    Quad-core.

    Two 3.5-ich 7200 rpm disk drives inside.

    Thunderbolt.

    Firewire 800.

    USB 3.

    SDXC card slot.

    Gigabit Ethernet.



    Did I say quiet?
  • mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    I am in the market for one. They last a long time so I always buy the top of the line. Just waiting for the TB equipped version. I hope they make at least one more version.



    Where else are you going to get 12 cores and 64 gigs of ram? With that much power you really need the larger enclosure just for the fans.



    The expansion slots are pretty cool too. I have used two so far.



    Sure with TB you can access external storage from an iMac so the 4 bays are no longer necessary but the other stuff I really like. I have the dual super drives which are not that necessary, but I like that they are not slot loading and the front facing i/o ports are really convenient.
  • haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    There are some issues with claiming that a single Thunderbolt connection is enough to completely replace a Mac Pro:



    1) Thunderbolt provides less bus power than Firewire and USB. The people who are praising Thunderbolt for reducing cable "spaghetti" are forgetting about all the external boxes, power cords and bricks required by all these external devices, especially high powered PCI Express cards.



    2) While Thunderbolt's current 10 gigabits per second speed seems impressive for a single connector, it does not come close to accommodating the aggregate bandwidth of a fully loaded Mac Pro with all PCI Express slots in use.



    3) Thunderbolt integrates basic DisplayPort support, but the actual DisplayPort standard is outpacing what is currently built into Thunderbolt. For example, DisplayPort 1.2 supports higher bandwidth than Thunderbolt today. Does Thunderbolt support daisy chaining multiple DisplayPort monitors?
  • winstein2010winstein2010 Posts: 401member
    Reduce the price, reduce size, make it rack-mountable, make it compatible with other virtualization management software so people can use it as a workstation or a server
  • triplecoretriplecore Posts: 30member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ort View Post


    The sales of the Mac Pros suck because they don't put enough effort into making it a desireable product.



    So true.
  • 2oh12oh1 Posts: 474member
    I'm one of the people who no longer needs one of these beasts thanks to fast yet cheap external storage. I'd been buying giant towers since the days of the Quadra, then a beige G3 (anybody remember that one?) then the first blue G4. Then the Graphite G4. I held on to that one for quite a while since it was the last Mac that could run OS 9 natively. Rather than buy a Mac Pro, I bought a Mini and lots of external storage.



    I realize there are many high end buyers who will hate seeing the end of what we know as being a Mac Pro, but it's time.



    A seriously beefed up Mini could easily replace the current Mac Pro.
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