Apple's 'modular' Mac Pro design may mean units that connect like Lego bricks

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 21
A new report claims that the Mac Pro refresh will rely on a custom data connector, and mission-specific modules that can be stacked to provide what users need -- but also that it may not ship to customers until 2020.

How the current Mac mini is already being used as a stackable system of sorts
How the current Mac mini is already being used as a stackable system of sorts


YouTube channel Tailosive Tech has released a video that claims in-depth details of the new Mac Pro which are reportedly based on information from sources within Apple. The main news is that the Mac Pro is to come as a series of stackable modules, each only slightly bigger than the current Mac mini, letting customers choose the configurations they need.






"What my personal insider sources told me is that the Mac Pro in the sense of modular, is a stacking system [as] opposed to a computer case with parts on the inside and door that opens up," says the presenter on Tailosive Tech. "There's multiple modules you can buy when you getting the Mac Pro. The only one you have to buy is the brain module which is supposedly a little bulkier than the standard Mac mini."

"It has some ports on it and it mostly houses the RAM and the CPU," he adds. "But Apple has already made its own proprietary connectors that are placed on top of this brain module and this will allow you to buy different modules that have I/O, that have GPUs, extra storage."

Tailosive also claims that while the Mac Pro will be unveiled this year, it may not actually ship until 2020. This is not entirely dissimilar to the 2013 Mac Pro, which shipped in profoundly limited quantities in the year it was released. When it did ship, it was only in the last few days of the year, allowing Apple to say that it hit the 2013 deadline it set for itself.

As for the details of how each module in stack will work, Tailosive Tech claims to know that they will be powered from the base or 'brain' module but feature independent power supplies and cooling.

"What it results in is ultimate customizability," he says. "So if a professional out there just wants a Mac Pro because it's a small device, they don't need to spend all that money on an iMac Pro..., they'll be able to buy just the brain module. But those people out there who really need that graphics processing, they'll be able to buy one, two, perhaps three or four different GPU modules and stack it on their Mac Pro however they want to stack it."

Sonnet RX 570 eGPU puck on top of an existing Mac mini
Sonnet RX 570 eGPU puck on top of an existing Mac mini


This isn't the first time that this rumor has surfaced. In previous incarnations of the speculation, it was suspected that the modules would work for RAM as well.

The existing Thunderbolt 3 connection is in essence a PCI-E 3.0 x4 connection to a peripheral. In order for the system to work for RAM, the connector would not just have to diverge from Thunderbolt, but make major architectural changes to how it communicates to the system as well.

Because of those architectural changes, it isn't clear how routinely swappable they will be. A connector allowing for RAM expansion would need a high-speed -- and not hot-swappable -- bus to connect with the CPU.

Apple has executed the concept of a custom high-speed data connector in a rudimentary fashion before. The PowerBook Duo system from the '90s had a custom connector, which allowed for a wide array of expansion for a docked computer -- but it did not have a bus speed suitable for RAM expansion.

While Apple has not commented on this report nor offered any detail of its plans, the company has gone out of its way three times to specify that the new Mac Pro will be "modular". It has also noticeably shied away from saying it will use PCI-E on the multiple occasions that it has talked about the hardware.

Other sources including analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have claimed information about the forthcoming design which don't confirm those of Tailosive Tech but don't contradict it, either.
qwwerapatchythepirateapplesnoranges
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,705member
    No straight forward tower with interchangeable off the shelf parts for you!
    davgregelijahgtipoodysamoriarepressthismichelb76
  • Reply 2 of 82
    Reminds me of Razer's Project Christine concept.
    Related image
    longpathqwwerarepressthisapplesnorangeswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 82
    The Texas Instruments 4A had a "Peripheral Expansion Box" that was modular in a lateral setup way back in the early days of personal computing.

    http://oldcomputers.net/ti994a.html

    H-P offers a somewhat modular compact desktop with different plug-in modules connecting through a USB connector. The Elite Slice has been on sale for a couple of years.



    I do not know if the report is correct, but Apple has a long history of proprietary connectors used to lock customers in.


    qwwera
  • Reply 4 of 82
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,826member
    I'll believe it when I see it.  Has the distinct whiff of bullshit.
    lkruppMacPro80s_Apple_Guyhodarthtspliff monkeycornchiptipoodysamoriarepressthis
  • Reply 5 of 82
    If this pans out, I'm sure there will be uses for such a machine. Not my use case though. However, bring on the 32" 6K3K monitor! I have the 27" UltraFine 5K and would definitely like something bigger...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 82
    irelandireland Posts: 17,584member
    The holy grail of modular design?
  • Reply 7 of 82
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    crowley said:
    I'll believe it when I see it.  Has the distinct whiff of bullshit.
    I have big, big concerns about bandwidth on this entire concept.
    libertyandfreeracerhomie3elijahgcornchiptipoodysamoriarepressthisnetroxwelshdogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 82
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,826member
    ireland said:
    The holy grail of modular design?
    The holy grail of unnecessary bespoke chassis and cooling nightmares.

    The convenience of the stackable modules is wholly out of whack with how often you'll need to be modifying the stack, and would cause huge downstream problems that are way, way more detrimental than convenience.

    Form over function to the nth degree.
    libertyandfreemike54elijahgcornchiptipoostompydysamoriarepressthismichelb76gordoncomstock
  • Reply 9 of 82
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,223member
    It's a joke right?
    dysamoriawelshdog
  • Reply 10 of 82
    irelandireland Posts: 17,584member
    crowley said:
    ireland said:
    The holy grail of modular design?
    The holy grail of unnecessary bespoke chassis and cooling nightmares.

    The convenience of the stackable modules is wholly out of whack with how often you'll need to be modifying the stack, and would cause huge downstream problems that are way, way more detrimental than convenience.

    Form over function to the nth degree.
    I did wonder about cooling, alright. A new thermal corner on the other side of the room this time.
  • Reply 11 of 82
    Echoes of the Apple Jonathan computer mockup from 1985.
    http://www.storiesofapple.net/the-jonathan-computer.html
    edited February 21 80s_Apple_Guycornchipdysamoriawelshdogpatchythepirate
  • Reply 12 of 82
    Apple: you have been talking to the wrong people if your 2+ year professional focus group resulted in this design/concept.  You could have just updated the logic board/motherboard on the MP5,1 and made a lot more new unit sales between 2015/2016 and now.  That would have been enough for 75%+ of the people using MP's right now.  This continued delay and lingering promise has set expectations extremely high, especially for those on the edge of jumping ship.
    libertyandfreemike54elijahgspliff monkeymacseekercornchipdysamoriarazorpit
  • Reply 13 of 82
    bathurststbathurstst Posts: 5unconfirmed, member
    My god, please no...
    mike54spliff monkeycornchipdysamoriarazorpit
  • Reply 14 of 82
    If Apple does this then they will successfully kill pro market for good.
    I don't think Apple will do this.. This is worse then cylinder Mac Pro, Even new 2 cylinder Mac Pros together as concept in internet.
    I am not sure why Apple so obsessed with thin and light.

    Computer needs cooling.. if case so cramp then heat will build up. CPU will throttling. New Mac mini already showed that..(well replace thermal paste make little better.)
    Unless Apple introduce close loop liquid cooling(which I highly doubt that. Coat too much for Apple.), Cramp case need to reconsider.
    mike54spliff monkeyrazorpit
  • Reply 15 of 82
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,658member
    crowley said:
    I'll believe it when I see it.  Has the distinct whiff of bullshit.
    I have big, big concerns about bandwidth on this entire concept.
    I have big concerns about what the hell is going on here. It’s getting ridiculous.
    spliff monkeymuthuk_vanalingamcornchippscooter63dysamoriarazorpit
  • Reply 16 of 82
    alxkntalxknt Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    The 'stackable modules' Mac has been a rumour / fever dream since back in the days of Firewire. It ain't gonna happen. "The only one you have to buy is the brain module…. It has some ports on it and it mostly houses the RAM and the CPU". No storage or graphics, so it can't boot? If this is really what you want, go buy a Mac Mini, an external GPU, some thunderbolt drives and put them in a pile.
    ocelotwreakspliff monkeycornchipdysamoriarazorpit
  • Reply 17 of 82
    crowley said:
    I'll believe it when I see it.  Has the distinct whiff of bullshit.
    I have big, big concerns about bandwidth on this entire concept.
    Why do they think they have to reinvent the wheel?

    The Cheesegrater design is still today a marvel of smart engineering. A slightly smaller version adapted for SSDs instead of conventional HDs and a single slot for an optional Blu-Ray drive would be wonderful. My 2010 is still a beast at many tasks but has as a practical matter reached the end of the road. I had to replace the power supply a couple of years ago and doubt I would spend that kind of money on it again.

    If Apple would stop trying to be a fashion house and start making a workstation they might be able to sell some hardware. I would order one as soon as I saw it and verified it was a decent piece of kit. I do not care about how skinny it is or some other fashion nonsense- it would be sitting under my desk where nobody would care what stylings Jony put on it. I can (kind of) understand the styling thing on a laptop or a desktop iMac, but a workstation grade computer is a tool- not an object of art.

    There simply is no great reason to have a mess all over your desktop or a spaghetti bowl of wires as in the trashcan design. internal, user maintainable, upgradeable and using industry standard slots and connectors. It is not exactly rocket science. Tell Tim to ask Jon Rubenstein back to head the development- he is the guy who headed the team that did the Cheesegrater.

    And while Apple is at it, how about an Apple Cinema Display that is 4 or 5 K about 32" with a widescreen aspect ratio?
    mike54elijahgocelotwreakmuthuk_vanalingamdysamoria80s_Apple_Guyrazorpitmartinxyz
  • Reply 18 of 82
    2020? A vague air of vaporware is starting to gather around this system. 
    cornchip
  • Reply 19 of 82
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    davgreg said:
    crowley said:
    I'll believe it when I see it.  Has the distinct whiff of bullshit.
    I have big, big concerns about bandwidth on this entire concept.
    Why do they think they have to reinvent the wheel?

    The Cheesegrater design is still today a marvel of smart engineering. A slightly smaller version adapted for SSDs instead of conventional HDs and a single slot for an optional Blu-Ray drive would be wonderful. My 2010 is still a beast at many tasks but has as a practical matter reached the end of the road. I had to replace the power supply a couple of years ago and doubt I would spend that kind of money on it again.

    If Apple would stop trying to be a fashion house and start making a workstation they might be able to sell some hardware. I would order one as soon as I saw it and verified it was a decent piece of kit. I do not care about how skinny it is or some other fashion nonsense- it would be sitting under my desk where nobody would care what stylings Jony put on it. I can (kind of) understand the styling thing on a laptop or a desktop iMac, but a workstation grade computer is a tool- not an object of art.

    There simply is no great reason to have a mess all over your desktop or a spaghetti bowl of wires as in the trashcan design. internal, user maintainable, upgradeable and using industry standard slots and connectors. It is not exactly rocket science. Tell Tim to ask Jon Rubenstein back to head the development- he is the guy who headed the team that did the Cheesegrater.

    And while Apple is at it, how about an Apple Cinema Display that is 4 or 5 K about 32" with a widescreen aspect ratio?
    If this is accurate, I think that it will do very well in the enterprise "Pro" market, which we believe populates the vast majority of the consultants that Apple has brought on-board to discuss what they need. In this form, it would be easy to maintain, easy to configure. Upgradeable and modular? Yup -- with those Apple layer-cakes.

    What it is not for, is for the 5,1 Mac Pro user. This I know, because I am one.
    elijahgspliff monkeyocelotwreakcornchipdavgregoseame
  • Reply 20 of 82
    RINGWALLRINGWALL Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    I am a professional video editor and photographer. Have been using macs since power PC. The software/hardware support has been such a failure for the the pro market since final cut pro 10. Even the manager at the apple store told me recently-while I was complaining about the poor service  considering the tens of thousands ive spent over the years-apple doesn't care about pro users any more, it makes luxury products (actual quote verbatim). 

    Either way, I still own Apple products, but all my professional work has long since transferred to PC where I spend half as much, get three times more and am not constantly dissapointed. 
    DAalsethmike54muthuk_vanalingamHwGeek80s_Apple_Guydavgreg
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