Originally Posted by hmm
what makes you feel thunderbolt is so great? I mean you've stated before that your opinion is if existing solutions are removed things will be forced forward. My opinion would be if this is really is a niche market, it's unlikely that many of these companies would allocate the necessary development costs to completely reworking something.
I really don't like redundancy. When I see a numbers row and a numpad on my keyboard, I don't like it. For years I've looked at the myriad of different ports and protocols and wished that one day there would be a more unified I/O setup that covered display data. Using magnets too, although that might not be feasible - the description is here:
It's all data so you really just need a single multi-protocol connection. Thunderbolt achieves that. That's what makes it better than all the other I/O standards besides the speed and latency.
As for PCI slots, I've never liked those because they dictate the size of the peripheral. If you need a FW800 port, you get a card that takes up an entire slot. With Thunderbolt, it's just a tiny plug.
PCI isn't plug and play either. You have to shut down your machine, open it up and install a peripheral. They used to do TV tuners this way. Once they realised how much of a pain it was to install, saw the dwindling desktop user base and got USB 2, they switched to USB.
It was a similar thing with A/V and Firewire. Video cameras could have shipped with PCI boards but it wouldn't have been a good solution. I can see Thunderbolt becoming the new standard on A/V equipment (low latency live capture over 100m optical for example) along with USB 3:
PCI slots have the speed advantage for now but it will take longer to evolve internal motherboard slots than an external port. A port change doesn't have to mean obsolete equipment but a change from PCIX to PCIe means an obsolete card. Then you have half-length slots, double-wide slots, different power limits and driver support. You still have driver support to contend with but on the Mac side, your potential audience is multiplied by 20 and you can test/develop the driver on a $600 computer.
We go through transitions over time. People didn't like IDE/PATA when it came on the scene because it wasn't as fast as SCSI but you didn't have to assign drive IDs and deal with conflicts. By the time SATA arrived in 2003, nobody had been talking about it for years.
The same has happened with optical drives being removed. The odd few jump up and shout 'hey, I was using that, you can't get rid of it' and looks around to realise he's in the small minority and can get an external drive. The entire Mac Pro audience is a tiny minority now and the people using the PCI slots for custom cards a fraction of them and people using cards other than I/O cards and cards that have TB equivalents a further fraction of them.
By the time you narrow it down to who this really affects, you will be down to an audience of less than 4 figures and there will be solutions for them in a couple of years so they can ride it out.
Originally Posted by hmm
If Ivy doesn't make it into LGA2011 workstations prior to September/October of next year, which I think is likely, it seems unlikely that the next mac pro would use this. I think if they keep it going you're just going to see a late Sandy Bridge E rollout.
Tim Cook said Late 2013 for 'something great' so the wait will be more than a year from now. Sandy Bridge could be shipped any time so there would be no reason to say late 2013.
I was thinking about this some more and if they did use a custom co-processsor, they could probably do an iMac Pro without a GPU. They could actually use the co-processor as an IGP in the MP too for TB but its only remaining advantage over the iMac is being headless.
They could make an iMac with a Xeon chip (8-core/16-thread 77W IB for example), 4TB ports and have the co-processor run the graphics. It might not be as fast as a standard GPU but it would very fast. The current iteration can do real-time ray-tracing using 4 servers and hit 90FPS:
They don't say how many cards they use but it's suitable for graphics and fully programmable. They can update to the newer OpenGL versions without waiting on a GPU manufacturer offering support. They can support features that are exclusive to Quadro and FirePro cards. I'd prefer a Super-Cube as the headless form factor allows more usage scenarios but I think an iMac Pro would be fine too.