Apple files hint at re-engineered iMac and Mac Pro models, potentially without optical drives

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Internal configuration files in Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple's iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by an AppleInsider reader Jason, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple's Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the "MM50" (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the "Mid 2011 Mac mini", which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.



New sixth generation Mac Pro

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven't been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn't changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the "Mac Pro 5,1" just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple's conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple's Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple's chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, "Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn?t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today?s [WWDC] event, don?t worry as we?re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today."

Cook's choice of the words "working on something really great," indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple's notebook designs, it's likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

New 13th generation iMac

Apple's current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it's overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as "iMac 13,2" has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

John Poole of Primate Labs, which developed the Geekbench software and maintains user submitted scores, told AppleInsider that while some machine benchmark reports on the company's site refer to themselves a "iMac 13,2" not all of them are genuine Apple machines. Some are "Hacintoshes," or Windows PCs configured to boot and run Apple's OS X software.

At the same time, at least one of the new Geekbench reports (below) calling itself an "iMac 13,2" does appear to be real, Poole noted. There is however, no way to determine if the new iMac model used to submit the test incorporated an optical drive or not.





"There are a number of things to look at when trying to figure out if Geekbench result is from an unreleased Mac or from a Hackintosh," Poole explained. "The first thing to examine is the operating system version and build number. Unreleased Macs run unreleased builds of Mac OS X, while Hackintoshes run public builds of Mac OS X (and sometimes they're a couple of builds behind)."

Poole added, "the next thing to examine is the processor. Apple has not (and probably will not) use unlocked processors (e.g., the Intel Core i7-3770K) in a Mac, while the Hackintosh community prefers unlocked processors. If a result has an unlocked processor, it's probably a Hackintosh.

"Finally examine the motherboard and BIOS strings. If the result is from an unreleased Mac then both strings should contain the model id (e.g., iMac13,2) in some shape or form. Both strings should also not refer to any of the popular Hackintosh distributions (e.g., tonymacx86 or multibeast)."

Unlike the Mac Pro, which was designed to accommodate a series of large hard drives, full size graphics cards and provide a number of open PCI expansion slots, Apple's iMac is designed to be a slim, elegant system not much larger than a standalone display. Removing its optical drive would have a much larger impact in making it more space efficient, and in particular, thinner.

To this end, people familiar with the matter told AppleInsider in April that the company has been working on a pair strikingly slimmer, lighter, and more elegant models that will feature of profile similar to today's latest LED TVs, though radiating a bit more panache.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

Patent 2


Apple works to abandon the disc

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn't definitively mean the models won't have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple's App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft's ill fated HD-DVD or Sony's Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple's newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 257
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,219moderator
    The iMac could be redesigned quite significantly. You can see what is possible with desktop boards now:

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/23376

    That example doesn't have a dedicated GPU but still, plenty of space to be saved here and there. A laminated panel means it has to be redesigned entirely and I think the Cinema Display is the most obvious design it can take. It also has the metal edge that offers some protection to the glass.
  • Reply 2 of 257
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post



    The iMac could be redesigned quite significantly. You can see what is possible with desktop boards now:

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/23376

    That example doesn't have a dedicated GPU but still, plenty of space to be saved here and there. A laminated panel means it has to be redesigned entirely and I think the Cinema Display is the most obvious design it can take. It also has the metal edge that offers some protection to the glass.




    They make it look thin at the front. Note the other portion.


     


    image


     


    Thin is overrated for desktop design once you're to the point where the overall machine footprint doesn't change by much. Density gets focused on too much, and it's really a gimmicky thing there. It relies on people being stupid enough to buy something simply because it looks newer.

  • Reply 3 of 257
    AppleInsiderAppleInsider Posts: 42,114administrator
    Internal configuration files in Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple's iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

    The discovery, made by an AppleInsider source, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

    While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple's Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

    The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

    The list of models (below) include the "MM50" (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the "Mid 2011 Mac mini", which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.



    New sixth generation Mac Pro

    Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven't been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

    The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn't changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the "Mac Pro 5,1" just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

    Apple's conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple's Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

    However, Apple's chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, "Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn?t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today?s [WWDC] event, don?t worry as we?re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today."

    Cook's choice of the words "working on something really great," indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

    While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple's notebook designs, it's likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

    New 13th generation iMac

    Apple's current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it's overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as "iMac 13,2" has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

    John Poole of Primate Labs, which developed the Geekbench software and maintains user submitted scores, told AppleInsider that while some machine benchmark reports on the company's site refer to themselves a "iMac 13,2" not all of them are genuine Apple machines. Some are "Hacintoshes," or Windows PCs configured to boot and run Apple's OS X software.

    At the same time, at least one of the new Geekbench reports (below) calling itself an "iMac 13,2" does appear to be real, Poole noted. There is however, no way to determine if the new iMac model used to submit the test incorporated an optical drive or not.





    "There are a number of things to look at when trying to figure out if Geekbench result is from an unreleased Mac or from a Hackintosh," Poole explained. "The first thing to examine is the operating system version and build number. Unreleased Macs run unreleased builds of Mac OS X, while Hackintoshes run public builds of Mac OS X (and sometimes they're a couple of builds behind)."

    Poole added, "the next thing to examine is the processor. Apple has not (and probably will not) use unlocked processors (e.g., the Intel Core i7-3770K) in a Mac, while the Hackintosh community prefers unlocked processors. If a result has an unlocked processor, it's probably a Hackintosh.

    "Finally examine the motherboard and BIOS strings. If the result is from an unreleased Mac then both strings should contain the model id (e.g., iMac13,2) in some shape or form. Both strings should also not refer to any of the popular Hackintosh distributions (e.g., tonymacx86 or multibeast)."

    Unlike the Mac Pro, which was designed to accommodate a series of large hard drives, full size graphics cards and provide a number of open PCI expansion slots, Apple's iMac is designed to be a slim, elegant system not much larger than a standalone display. Removing its optical drive would have a much larger impact in making it more space efficient, and in particular, thinner.

    To this end, people familiar with the matter told AppleInsider in April that the company has been working on a pair strikingly slimmer, lighter, and more elegant models that will feature of profile similar to today's latest LED TVs, though radiating a bit more panache.

    Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

    Patent 2


    Apple works to abandon the disc

    The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn't definitively mean the models won't have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

    At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

    Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple's App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

    The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft's ill fated HD-DVD or Sony's Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

    Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

    In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

    Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple's newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

    By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

    Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.
  • Reply 4 of 257
    daharderdaharder Posts: 1,580member
    There will be those who'll argue that 'optical drives' are obsolete etc., but to remove them from desktop systems (where there's very little concern for saving a few millimenters that they take up) would be a questionable move as I know many (especially college students) who still watch (RedBox) DVDs etc on their iMacs.

    We'll See if they decide to keep them or not...
  • Reply 4 of 257
    isheldonisheldon Posts: 570member


    Hallelujah- hopefully late September.

  • Reply 6 of 257
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,620member


    It's only a matter of time.  One less thing to go wrong on the machine.  Just like the floppy disk, legacy ports, etc.  Sure, there will be the 1% that will (as usual) resist change but it's nice that Apple is the one that sets the trail, even if it is a bumpy one at first.



    I can count the number of times I've used the CD drive on my 2009 iMac.  That's how little I use it.  I have an external drive for my MBA and that has been used less than a handful of times, and only for those folks that refuse to let old tech die.

  • Reply 7 of 257

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DaHarder View Post



    There will be those who'll argue that 'optical drives' are obsolete etc., but to remove them from desktop systems (where there's very little concern for saving a few millimenters that they take up) would be a questionable move as I know many (especially college students) who still watch (RedBox) DVDs etc on their iMacs.

    We'll See if they decide to keep them or not...


     


    For those who need an optical disc drive -- you can buy an external USB ODD from apple for $79.

  • Reply 8 of 257


    We've already seen the next generation iMac. It's called the 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display.

  • Reply 9 of 257
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member

    Quote:


    incorporate high performance SSD RAID options or a reduced profile.



     


    Original copy says 'or', although 'for' would also make sense yet provides a slightly different meaning. 

  • Reply 10 of 257
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member


    I can see the iMac first, possibly ln Sept. and the MacPro first quarter next year.  That to me seems more REALISTIC.  But if they do it sooner, even better.


     


    I personally think the MacPro will probably a complete case design is a GUESS and that their working on some new video cards that may/may not have surfaced yet.


     


    I think for the MacPro, since most of those go to the Pro Audio and Video market that they like having burners to make archive copies of CDs,DVDs, and possibly BluRay.  But maybe they'll be configured to add them internally.




    The iMac, I could care if they have them internally or not, an external one is fine, because I can always add one for importing CDs to the iTunes Library.

  • Reply 11 of 257
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,122member


    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.

  • Reply 12 of 257

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.



    Boo


     


    Get a UPS for that.

  • Reply 13 of 257


    That is a Huge Endeavor that you will never see from Apple Inside the chassis.


     


    I am knowledgeable in the APC back-up power supply industry, and the size of the units able to deliver 15 minutes of Battery Power, are the size of "large" Bricks


     


    So,


    Where are you going to put it?

     

  • Reply 14 of 257
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,620member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.



     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Market_Player View Post


    Boo


     


    Get a UPS for that.







    UPS Batteries go bad after a couple years.  While the concept is sound, the reality is most would not want to take their iMacs in to replace a battery.  UPS's are fine.  Unfortunately, most people aren't aware of what they even are outside of the package-shipping company.

  • Reply 15 of 257

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.



     


    I've got one of these for my iMac. It connects to the iMac to automatically shut the computer down before the battery power runs out.


    http://www.apc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id=29

  • Reply 16 of 257
    dgnr8dgnr8 Posts: 196member


    No Big Loss, the drives they have been shipping are very out of date.


     


    I use an external Memorex CD Burner and it smokes the drive in my MacPro and iMac.

  • Reply 17 of 257
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    For those who need an optical disc drive -- you can buy an external USB ODD from apple for $79.
    Or you could save fifty bucks and get a <$30 DVD burner from Amazon, Newegg, wherever. These are commodity peripherals now.
  • Reply 18 of 257
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    daharder wrote: »
    There will be those who'll argue that 'optical drives' are obsolete etc., but to remove them from desktop systems (where there's very little concern for saving a few millimenters that they take up) would be a questionable move as I know many (especially college students) who still watch (RedBox) DVDs etc on their iMacs.
    We'll See if they decide to keep them or not...

    Just like they kept floppy drives in all their Macs long after the industry and consumers stopped using them... because they had the room for them. And that was an actual gaffe in many regards because CD discs were still pricey -and- the first floppy-less Mac only had a reader.

    drblank wrote: »
    I can see the iMac first, possibly ln Sept. and the MacPro first quarter next year.  That to me seems more REALISTIC.  But if they do it sooner, even better.

    I personally think the MacPro will probably a complete case design is a GUESS and that their working on some new video cards that may/may not have surfaced yet.

    I think for the MacPro, since most of those go to the Pro Audio and Video market that they like having burners to make archive copies of CDs,DVDs, and possibly BluRay.  But maybe they'll be configured to add them internally

    The iMac, I could care if they have them internally or not, an external one is fine, because I can always add one for importing CDs to the iTunes Library.

    For the current Mac Pro design an ODD makes sense. If they make it more consumer friendly, the elusive xMac display-less desktop people have been clamoring for for years, then I can see it not having an ODD at all, but have a case that allows for an ODD option. Perhaps even not a tray, but a cleverly placed slot for the disc should you decide to go with that option.

    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.

    At one point that would have been great but with Mac OS backing up pretty much everything instantly I don't see a consumer need for it. Even on a restart all the apps you had open pop back up, including QTX with the video's last position.
  • Reply 19 of 257
    jr_bjr_b Posts: 64member


    Look at my brand new Apple iMac.  It has a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse.  It's a work of art with the exception of the external optical drive!

  • Reply 20 of 257
    One thing I wish Apple would do with the iMac... build in an emergency back-up battery for at least 10 or 15 minutes worth of emergency shut-down power.

    Yeah, like some others I'd prefer those are kept outside the machine in the form of a UPS. While I imagine Apple could build a more efficient backup power supply if they really wanted to, it is nice to have an external device to deal with when the battery (or the device) goes bad, and it is also nice to keep that weight (they are really heavy—especially if rated well enough to tend a Mac Pro) out of the computer.
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