It still contained nehalem options. They had the bottom 2 options on nehalem through WWDC. Now it's one Nehalem and the rest Westmere. To be fair, this was typical.You didn't have a single package cpu from westmere appropriate to the low end configurations. The difference is that the others charged significantly less for their base configurations. It's never possible to make a perfect comparison, and whenever you start adding cto options to any computer, the price increases are substantial. You essentially pay for the part and for the configuration.
The cube was an interesting even desirable machine but Apple really screwed up with pricing. Badly! In fact the Cube was so poorly priced that it turned me off with respect to Apple for a very long time. I eventually replaced my Mac Plus with a series of Linux machines because of it. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back so to speak as I just could never see a price justification for that machine nor for many that came between the Plus and the Cube.
The Cube want a bad idea though. Something similar today probably would work well unless it was big enough to house the capability of the Mac Pro. Notably the Mini is a far better "Cube" that the Cube ever was. So a modern day Cube would need to be able to house both high performance CPUs and GPUs. That at the very least means a bigger box.
I don't see aesthetics as such a big deal for the market the mac pro currently services. It's nice but not the most important element. People don't buy desktops or workstations as status symbols.
They have slowly increased the price floor. The G5s started at $2000. The mac pros started at $2300 then $2500, and the low model went from dual to single package. The other factor is that not all software scales that well with core counts. The newest focus has been gpu leverage, and it's important not to ignore that in such a line. There are a number of comparisons between 12 core machines and GTX or Quadro gpus in terms of time taken to finish various tasks. Obviously it doesn't apply to everything, but the performance scaling all the way down to the notebooks is impressive. I'm not sure I see them reversing the pricing strategy to a point where it overlaps with the imac.
Apple does have configuration issues that make the low end machines very in appealing.
I see those issues as being related to volume and Apple's internal pricing strategies, not the components used. You can find sub $1000 machines with drive bays. They shouldn't significantly complicate logic board design. Right now the mid mini uses a more expensive cpu than the bottom mac pro. Even the minis contain two bays. You don't have to look at the building parts used to understand the cost. Other brands retail similar machines for $1000 less. The logic board is designed with a daughter board configuration to allow for a shared backplane without the costs of a dual package board on the low end. They've basically stripped the costs down to the lowest level possible through consolidation. Thick aluminum might add a few dollars, but the processing wouldn't be as labor intensive as machining cases.
As to Ivy Bridge, I just don't see it in a new 2013 Mac Pro. Frankly it really isn't worth waiting for, at least it doesn't justify pissing off your loyal customer base for. Instead I see something from the Xeon Phi line up going into the machine. Not so much the accelerator chips already released/announced but rather a Main CPU Phi that has been rumored about. In other words a chipset that allows Apple to implement a dramatically different Mac Pro and something they might see as justifying good margins.
To put it another way, they need something that makes people say wow. Something that changes the mindset as to the Mac Pros value. Frankly if they rolled out yet another Ivy Bridge based Pro machine, in the same mold as the current Pros, I don't see a lot of NEW users rushing to embrace the new machine. New being the key word as to remain viable the new Pro needs to suck in many more new users.
The same logic more or less applies to an Ivy Bridge based machine. Or it will when a stable of Ivy based Xeons is out.
Chipsets aren't really changing again prior to 2014 at the workstation level. Intel is arguably on a skewed release cycl here, but it's what is available. I agree they need to absorb new users. Typically it takes significant growth that can be leveraged well to grow a product line. Completing a task in 25 minutes instead of 30 isn't enough to move a large portion of users. Taking something from a couple minutes to real time has a much greater impact in encouraging either new sales or upgrades. When you're talking about something that can change the way you work, that drives workstation sales far more than the annual bump where users will either wait out generations or wait for a significant "breakthrough" generation. I find the complaints about size and it should be smaller to be a little silly. Rack friendly might help a few people, but people say a lot of things. They imagine something cool, but this doesn't mean they'll buy it. Show them something that can really advance the way they work and they'll either embrace it or grudgingly upgrade due to the perceived need not to fall behind their peers in efficiency.
To this I agree, but I really can't see anything compelling in Ivy Bridge Xeons either. Think about it, Apple risked many customers by releasing that "bump" machine a few months ago. Does Ivy Bridge justify that? Nope! At least I can't see anything so compelling in Ivy Bridge that I'd risk my customer base waiting for it. This is why I expect something different, who knows Apple could be partnering with Intel on a Xeon Phi specific for Apples needs. All I do know is that they must have something compelling up their sleeves to justify all the foot dragging and non updates we have gotten.
I was thinking February. I suppose another half year doesn't mean much if you haven't done a real update in four years but the customer base is getting itchy. In any event you would think that we would be hearing leaks or rumors rather soon. .
Thunderbolt wasn't really designed to be friendly to this line. It adds a high IO port where it wasn't previously possible, but they can't route it through integrated graphics with E5s unless something eventually changes there. It won't happen with ivy bridge where they're upping core counts and sticking with the same chipset. Perhaps a board revision with haswell or broadwell could take on integrated graphics rather than more X86 cores. Otherwise they'd need to take a different approach if it's seen as a must have item. I've tried to explain that looking back at the last decade, workstation boards are always used as long as possible. It gives the manufacturers better amortization of costs on a lower volume part and some amount of stability/predictability. Ivy E5s will have the same chipset as Sandy E5s along with the same socket just like Nehalem to Westmere. My other point was that if it's intended as a short or minor release cycle, you may not have some of the cheaper options with Ivy, necessitating the use of some Sandy options to fill in gaps in the line.