Originally Posted by waybacmac
I'm going to make a wild, wild guess. Apple decides to simplify model lines and parts supply by basing the new MP on the iMac. Low-end starts with a standard, single CPU i7 iMac. Then introduce a special, higher-end iMac with two (or more?) CPU's. Maybe with a special cooling system? The iMac is partnered with a combo drive/expansion-box tower using one, maybe even two, Thunderbolt ports. Voilà! iMac Pro
They might have gone the route of putting a single Xeon in the iMac but the model number MP60 listed in the Bootcamp plist suggests that won't be the case. It also provides good evidence that it won't have an optical drive, which indicates a redesign because that 5.25" unit takes up a lot of space. They could move the hard drives into that space and just lower the height or maybe have a different shaped power supply but I think they should go beyond that.
We get the same comments cycling round every time there's a Mac Pro reference such as putting in more PCI slots and an i7 because it's cheaper.
The entry Mac Pro uses a $294 processor, which costs exactly the same as an i7. The 1000W power supply and motherboard will be more expensive but we know that they upped the Mac Pro price by $300 after the first Mac Pro model so they obviously weren't selling enough to justify the margins they had. The lower the volume, the higher the price.
The parts that go into the Mac Pro can be bought for about $1200-1400 so they are easily at 40% profit margins.
When it comes to Thunderbolt, there's still the issue of how they get it to work with a dedicated GPU. The spec they are required to follow in order to call it Thunderbolt is that it has PCI and displayport on the same connection, no compromise. So they either have PCI slots and no Thunderbolt or they don't have Thunderbolt because if you put in another GPU, it can't know how to route the graphics out the TB ports. If you put in a non-standard GPU, it breaks the TB spec.
There's also the issue about the machine having 40 PCI lanes. If you have 4 slots, you can't give them all 16 lanes and if you max out the lanes on the slots, there's nothing to allocate to Thunderbolt. I think it's very much an either/or situation.
When you consider that the Mac Pro slots only have a 300W power allocation, you can only have multiple low-power GPUs or a single high-end one. The simpler option is the single high-end one.
Once you've decided on the GPU, Thunderbolt can take care of expansion. It would be better if Apple managed to get the 20Gbps Falcon Ridge controller though. This prevents the scenario where Macbook Pro/Air//iMac/Mini professionals are buying Thunderbolt peripherals and Mac Pro professionals are buying PCI cards. They all buy the same peripherals.
The single GPU would still be upgradeable but only from Apple as it has to work with Thunderbolt.
As far as the CPU goes, they can stick with allowing 2 CPUs but Ivy Bridge will bring 10-core chips, maybe 12. These will be expensive chips.
Right now, the highest-end MP uses 2x $1440 CPUs = $2880 but the performance is only about 20% faster than the $1885 single CPU 8-core E5-2687W. The equivalent Ivy Bridge chip will likely be 20% faster so they could offer the same performance as the current $6200 Mac Pro for:
$2499 - $294 + $1885 = ~$3999
While they could still offer a faster dual processor model at $6200, if few people are buying those, the better option would be to offer the best value to the highest volume of customers.
The entry model could do with a 6-core CPU and then have an 8-core in between.
By taking out the optical, the PCI slots and 2nd CPU, they can cut the power consumption down so the PSU can drop to 500-600W.
If they can fit this into a Cube, that would be great but I think they'd struggle with that. They can at least manage the following size as it's just a reworking of what they have already:
If they can put in functionality to allow zero-config connections over Thunderbolt, even better. You could buy as many $3999 models and just plug a TB cable between 1 and 2 then 2 and 3 etc.
Sure the complaints will come in about not being able to access PCI cards but for high-end tasks, wouldn't you rather spend $3999 on another MP and run any task natively on a dedicated 10-core Xeon than spend $4750 on a Red Rocket PCI card that only does one thing? There's always the backup of having an external PCI box anyway.
If they can figure out how to make PCI slots and Thunderbolt work together in a Xeon box, all the better I suppose but they still need to allocate 40 lanes between them so they won't have more than 4 slots.
Ultimately, just like FCPX they have to design this box for the next 10 years, not for the last 10 years and make it appeal to the widest Mac Pro audience. If leaving the design largely unchanged and leaving out Thunderbolt accomplishes this, so be it but I don't think it does. I think the USP should be performance-per-dollar, not expansion - make it more than twice as fast as the iMac for less than twice the price.
Remember what the original Macintosh said:
These big, heavy workstation form factors are becoming unnecessary for workstation use just like the mainframes. Same for servers. One day, so few people will buy them that they will be dropped: