Apple's management doesn't want Nvidia support in macOS, and that's a bad sign for the Mac...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 18
Apple just doesn't allow modern Nvidia GPUs on macOS Mojave, and this is a dramatic change from only six months ago. Given that a new Mac Pro is coming that could support Nvidia cards, and there are already eGPUs that should, it's time that Apple did.

Nvidia Titan Xp for a PCI-E Mac Pro, supported through High Sierra
Nvidia Titan Xp for a PCI-E Mac Pro, supported through High Sierra


As with anything Apple, there's a long history between the two companies. And, some bad blood.

First collaboration

The first Mac to include a graphics processing unit by Nvidia was the Power Macintosh G4 (Digital Audio), which was released in January 2001 and continued an Nvidia GeForce2 MX. Up to then, Apple had been using graphics cards made by ATI and this change was significant for more than just switching to Nvidia.

Rather than picking one manufacturer over another, however, Apple was actually choosing to work to the industry standard OpenGL. Doing so meant that it could freely switch between hardware from ATI, Nvidia or any other company that met those same standards.

So, it wasn't that Apple ditched ATI and in fact there was a 466 MHz model of the Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio) which had a 16MB ATI RAGE 128 Pro graphics card instead.

Still, with the exception of the iMac (Summer 2001) which had an ATI RAGE 128 Ultra, for the next two years, all Macs shipped with some Nvidia GPU. For 2003's Power Macintosh G4 (FireWire 800), Apple used an ATI Radeon 9000 Pro.

Problems

In 2004, the Apple Cinema Display was delayed and reportedly because of Nvidia's inability to produce the required graphics card, a GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL.

Nvidia processor in a 2008 MacBook Pro
Nvidia processor in a 2008 MacBook Pro


Then in October 2008, Apple had to admit that some MacBook Pros had faulty Nvidia processors. Back in July of that year, Nvidia itself had admitted problems though when AppleInsider asked, the company refused to confirm that its chips were causing the MacBook problems.

By this point Nvidia was doing more than straight graphics processing. It was also providing a way for Apple to integrate and connect these GPUs to the rest of the MacBook.

Diagram showing the difference Nvidia brought to the MacBook in 2008
Diagram showing the difference Nvidia brought to the MacBook in 2008


This substantially improved the graphics on the MacBooks -- and got Nvidia into a legal battle with Intel. A technology lawsuit from Intel claimed that Nvidia's license did not allow it to make such competing, compatible chipsets. The case and an overlapping countersuit wouldn't be resolved until 2011.

While that legal battle may have been an issue that affected whether Apple would be able to use Nvidia processors in future, in 2009 there was also a report that the Cupertino company had dropped them anyway. Reportedly, Nvidia was accused of proposals that were "arrogance and bluster" and that negotiations with Apple were now extremely bitter.

Around the same time, the iPhone transformed the mobile computing market and meant phones now needed GPUs. Nvidia had been rumored back in 2006 to be what would power Apple's forthcoming product but that was using the Tegra processor which then didn't ship until 2009.

Instead of Nvidia or AMD -- by then the owner of ATI -- Apple went for Samsung processors and of course later developed its own.

At this time, Nvidia may have then believed that its own patents also applied to the GPUs in mobiles. The company tried to get companies to buy licenses for this technology and in 2013 then went as far as filing patent infringement suits against Qualcomm and Samsung.

If Nvidia tried getting Apple to pay its license fees then Apple seemingly said no. In 2016, it also said no to putting Nvidia processors in the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Instead, Apple went with AMD GPUs publicly because of performance per watt issues, but the real reason is anybody's guess.

That performance to power ratio is most significant for the GPUs inside laptops and Nvidia continued to make graphics cards that could be used as eGPUs for Macs. If you had a Mac Pro before the 6,1 cylindrical one, you could use the company's PCI-E graphics card internally with the Nvidia-provided web driver. Thunderbolt devices could attach one with a little bit of a fight that didn't improve when Apple supported eGPUs explicitly in the spring of 2018.

Nvidia graphics card from 2017
Nvidia graphics card from 2017


In 2017, Nvidia didn't deliver drivers during the High Sierra beta, which seems sensible. Instead, it waited to release updated drivers for the shipping version.

And now, in 2019, there aren't any functional drivers for Mojave at all. And, it's Apple's fault. The only two Nvidia cards that work with Mojave are the GeForce GTX 680, and the Quadro K5000 -- both several years old at this point. And, this is only a light brush over the history between the two companies.

Nvidia cries foul

In October 2018, Nvidia issued as public a statement as it ever does. In a FAQ on Nvidia's developer site, the company said that Apple was to blame for the lack of web drivers for Mojave.
Developers using Macs with NVIDIA graphics cards are reporting that after upgrading from 10.13 to 10.14 (Mojave) they are experiencing rendering regressions and slow performance.

Apple fully controls drivers for Mac OS. Unfortunately, NVIDIA currently cannot release a driver unless it is approved by Apple.

Our hardware works on OS 10.13 which supports up to (and including) Pascal.
We saw this note in October, and started asking questions. The "rendering regressions" and "slow performance" are because there is no real acceleration going on, and even performance in the "supported" cards is iffy at best -- and took a hit in Mojave.

Inside Apple

What we found was support inside the Spaceship for the idea, but a lack of will to allow Nvidia GPUs. We've spoken with several dozen developers inside Apple, obviously not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, who feel that support for Nvidia's higher-end cards would be welcome, but disallowed quietly at higher levels of the company.

"It's not like we have any real work to do on it, Nvidia has great engineers," said one developer in a sentiment echoed by nearly all of the Apple staff we spoke with. "It's not like Metal 2 can't be moved to Nvidia with great performance. Somebody just doesn't want it there."

One developer went so far as to call it "quiet hostility" between long-time Apple managers and Nvidia.

For sure, somebody at Apple in the upper echelons doesn't want Nvidia support going forward right now. But, even off the record, nobody seemed to have any idea who it is. The impression we got is that it was some kind of passed-down knowledge with the origin of the policy lost to the mists of time, or an unwritten rule like so many in baseball.

Two years ago, pre-eGPU support, this block may have made at least a modicum of sense. Any Macs with PCI-E slots were aging, and the user base was dwindling through attrition alone. But, the drivers are available for High Sierra and are getting updated to this day -- and we can testify that they still work great in a 5,1 Mac Pro, including the 1000-series cards.

The Nvidia driver can be shoe-horned onto High Sierra machines who want a Nvidia card in an eGPU. We're not going to delve into it here, but there is a wealth of information over at eGPU.io, if you're so inclined. And, don't upgrade to Mojave if you do so.

This decision makes absolutely no sense with eGPUs now being explicitly supported in macOS. They work fine in Windows, so it's not a technical limitation. Some tasks perform better on AMD, and some on Nvidia, it is a fact of silicon. There is no reason beyond marketing and user-funneling to prohibit use of the cards on a software level.

No, there aren't a ton of eGPU installs. Yes, a good portion of those users are fine with AMD cards. But, it is absolutely overly user-hostile to not allow Nvidia to release the drivers not just for future eGPU use, but for the non-zero percent of those users who are keeping the old Mac Pro alive. And if this is some kind of ancient Apple secret or preserved grudges that are preventing it, that's even worse.

And, it makes us worry what "modular" means for the forthcoming Mac Pro.
muthuk_vanalingamcgWerkspixelwash
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 126
    This has the potential to be another hit against Apple in the science field.  We have a number of people we support running programs that utilize CUDA.  Access to eGPU Nvidia cards, especially if we can install CUDA, could keep a number of labs using Macs.  Failure to do so starts to swing the economics further in other directions.
    cornchipbloodshotrollin'redrepressthistipooemig647jbdragonmichelb76iqatedoargonaut
  • Reply 2 of 126
    Now is the time to put pressure on Apple to allow Nvidia to create drivers for Mohave. 
    After they report earnings on the 29th, they will have to have a clearer roadmap of what is going to happen this year in regards to products and services. 

    I always thought it was a mistake to only focus on iPhone since you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The Mac market may not be as lucrative as iPhone, but I’m surprised they never had a contingency plan if the whole smartphone market plateaued. 

    Sure they talk about services making up the difference, but I read a good article showing that services won’t be as profitable as the lost sales of iPhones. 

    This is the first time I have seen a little panic in Apple’s behavior. They didn’t predict that the Xs and XR would not sell as well as they thought, and they surely didn’t predict that they would be replacing 11 million iPhone batteries in 2018. That was something that they should have factored correctly.  They predicted only 1-2 million batteries would have been replaced. 

    So if there ever is a time that you have Apple’s attention, it’s now.  Let Apple know that the Mac is still very much a viable market and they can make up for years of neglect if they work fast. I know there are a lot of people who have been waiting for a Mac good enough to upgrade to and taking care of them can boost the bottom line. 
    tipoowatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 126
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,899administrator
    Now is the time to put pressure on Apple to allow Nvidia to create drivers for Mohave. 
    After they report earnings on the 29th, they will have to have a clearer roadmap of what is going to happen this year in regards to products and services. 

    I always thought it was a mistake to only focus on iPhone since you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The Mac market may not be as lucrative as iPhone, but I’m surprised they never had a contingency plan if the whole smartphone market plateaued. 

    Sure they talk about services making up the difference, but I read a good article showing that services won’t be as profitable as the lost sales of iPhones. 

    This is the first time I have seen a little panic in Apple’s behavior. They didn’t predict that the Xs and XR would not sell as well as they thought, and they surely didn’t predict that they would be replacing 11 million iPhone batteries in 2018. That was something that they should have factored correctly.  They predicted only 1-2 million batteries would have been replaced. 

    So if there ever is a time that you have Apple’s attention, it’s now.  Let Apple know that the Mac is still very much a viable market and they can make up for years of neglect if they work fast. I know there are a lot of people who have been waiting for a Mac good enough to upgrade to and taking care of them can boost the bottom line. 
    They may not have predicted it, but 1-2M is the "normal" annual replacement tally and not the prediction for the inexpensive replacement program.
    chasmDeelronfastasleep
  • Reply 4 of 126
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 94unconfirmed, member
    That's disturbing. I used to like playing with Photoshop with the Mac Pro demo unit at a Small Dog Apple reseller in Vermont where I live and noticed how quickly it would operate. I still own a PowerMac G4 tower from back in 2002 but now in my closest which is replaced by my 2010 iMac, running on El Capitan hooked to a Wacom Intuos, MS keyboard and Kensington trackball mouse, the old school way. As a graphic designer/artist, it angers me how Apple is dropping the ball on the graphics card front and yes, I agree with this article that the upcoming 'modular' Mac Pro is something to be concerned about. From what I'm hearing lately, many professional creatives have been migrating over the PC/Windows side for price and practicality purposes which I don't blame them on. I really wanted to see Nvidia have support on future Macs as a viable alternative to swap in/out the cards. But considering the way Apple continues to keep their machines 'thin', it's disturbing that their iMacs or laptops don't have a proper cooling system. I live on a 3rd floor apartment and hate summer time which makes this machine heat up even more,despite the use of my AC. But on winter? Never a problem. Someone needs to replace Cook to turn this ship back on the right direction. Seriously.
  • Reply 5 of 126
    I recall in one of the bonus-videos on a Pixar-movie learning about John Lassetter's history.

    Paraphrased and could be mildly-inaccurate:

    He worked for Disney, did a computer video of some kind, and got fired.
    Started Pixar, (help from Steve), eventual raging success.
    Disney approached to buy/control Pixar, with JL as the Pixar boss.
    Instead of saying F-you, he agreed to be bought out, due to Disney's mega marketing/distro business.
    I recall being impressed that he could set pride/revenge aside.

    Good weekend all.

    PS:  Not saying I'm an angel in this regard, but the story came to mind.
  • Reply 6 of 126
    JohnEJohnE Posts: 1unconfirmed, member

    So if there ever is a time that you have Apple’s attention, it’s now.  Let Apple know that the Mac is still very much a viable market and they can make up for years of neglect if they work fast. I know there are a lot of people who have been waiting for a Mac good enough to upgrade to and taking care of them can boost the bottom line. 
    So, how do we let them know in a way where we will be heard? Buying a windows machine isn't going to do it. And then I'm stuck running Windows until Apple finally gets their act together.
    edited January 18
  • Reply 7 of 126
    Since Mojave came out I’ve been slowly moving my workflow over to windows 10 while waiting for web drivers. It looks like I will have to complete my move over to windows at this point.
    vulpinemichelb76
  • Reply 8 of 126
    Apple must have something under their sleeves. Wait until MacPro is out, Apple will surprise us with their own G1 Graphic Card that runs on Metal driver.
    AppleExposedSpamSandwichn2itivguyrepressthisfastasleepmcdave
  • Reply 9 of 126
    There are a larger number of people still using MacPro5,1 (or 4,1>5,1) machines for professional use than most immediately assume.  

    Is the number smaller than iPhone user base?  Absolutely.  
    Is the number smaller than the MacBook Pro user base?  Absolutely.

    IF Apple continues down this road and the MacPro7,1 is an immediate "failure" that is so locked up without PCIe port access, soldered memory or SSDs, and lack of ports and expansion (as many think may be the case), there will be a larger exodus from the Apple macOS platform.  

    MANY people stuck with Apple or moved to Apple during the Intel shift that allowed Boot Camp.  These same users are now using Apple hardware and moving back to Windows because their work requires it.  NVIDIA and CUDA is a large part of the video, 3D, animation, and scientific communities.  These were target audiences for Apple at one point.  Shifting these users to Windows is the wrong direction for Apple to be heading.

    The Hackintosh community is a different story.  Some of them did this out of necessity, others just don't want to pay the Apple tax.  Apple could (and maybe should) do more to lock down their macOS software to prevent moving onto non-Apple originating hardware.  The T2/T3/Tx chips seem to be part of that long term plan.

    All this being said - there is absolutely no reason Apple should not straight up allow NVIDIA to release drivers on their own.  Force NVIDIA to have a non-Apple support disclaimer during install if it's a support issue.  Regardless, Apple at minimum owes the professional community an explanation or acknowledgment of the "issue" or to defend their position.  Telling pros that the 7,1 will have PCIe slots (in some fashion) and support GPUs from AMD only would be an answer.  Not the answer many want, but an answer that almost all potential 7,1 purchasers are looking for.
  • Reply 10 of 126
    Radeon VII confirmed. 
    entropys
  • Reply 11 of 126
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,016member
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    edited January 18 fastasleephmurchison
  • Reply 12 of 126
    auxio said:
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    Well, you can say the same about Apple opening up Metal, right? It all swings multiple ways, and some of them can come to bite Apple more than others. 
  • Reply 13 of 126
    ksecksec Posts: 1,567member
    Apple has options, that is the new Intel GPU, and AMD Radeon VII. The biggest problem isn't the hardware. It is Apple just sit on their ass and expect these GPU vendor to work on the GPGPU library for Mac.

    CUDA will never open to other GPU manufacturer, it is Nvidia's crown jewellery. Opening up CUDA is like the absolute last option Nvidia will do. And I don't see these CUDA workflow changes in the next 3 - 4 years. Intel will of course tries to compete, but I don't think they could come up with something that is as refined as CUDA in short space of time.
  • Reply 14 of 126
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,016member
    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    Well, you can say the same about Apple opening up Metal, right? It all swings multiple ways, and some of them can come to bite Apple more than others. 
    Agreed.  However, I've seen at least a dozen discussions about opening up Metal (or making Vulcan work on Mac/iOS) but none about opening up CUDA (or making it work on other GPUs).  If you want everything open, then at least be consistent about it.
    edited January 18 roundaboutnow
  • Reply 15 of 126
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,016member
    ksec said:
    CUDA will never open to other GPU manufacturer, it is Nvidia's crown jewellery. Opening up CUDA is like the absolute last option Nvidia will do. And I don't see these CUDA workflow changes in the next 3 - 4 years.
    And that's the problem.  People have gone down a vendor-specific path and now they're complaining when they can't use it everywhere.  In the same way they're now going to lobby Apple to support it and/or switch to Windows, they could also have lobbied against NVIDIA by choosing a cross-platform alternative in the first place (or switch to that now).  They're just being myopic about the companies they choose to lobby against.

    I mean, if I designed an app using a proprietary Microsoft SDK, I'm certainly not going to lobby Apple to support that SDK.  Or conversely, if I design an app using Metal and then complain it doesn't work on Windows.  These are the results of my software design choices.
    edited January 18 mdriftmeyerroundaboutnowhmurchison
  • Reply 16 of 126
    auxio said:
    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    Well, you can say the same about Apple opening up Metal, right? It all swings multiple ways, and some of them can come to bite Apple more than others. 
    Agreed.  However, I've seen at least a dozen discussions about opening up Metal (or making Vulcan work on Mac/iOS) but none about opening up CUDA (or making it work on other GPUs).  If you want everything open, then at least be consistent about it.
    For me personally, to what extent there is CUDA support or not is not particularly important. The important discussion, however, is that the user community has been voicing strong opinions about the need for an open Mac that can both be tailored to accommodate very diverse hardware configurations, including NVIDIA, and that can also run the widest range of software.

    One of the issues with the new mini – which will also be evident in a new Pro, is that because of the timespan between hardware updates combined with the fact that it can only run the very latest version of macOS makes the machine less flexible in that you cannot necessarily move workloads from old systems to the new hardware. This can be because the required drivers, libraries or software version does not support the most recent version of macOS.  

    A good example is macOS Server which is both stable and reasonably useful on Sierra, but is completely useless on Mojave, and force the user to run something completely different if they want to upgrade (most likely Linux). 
    You will experience the same for applications that needs certain versions of OpenGL possibly in combination with GPUs as another example. 
    edited January 18
  • Reply 17 of 126
    JohnE said:

    So if there ever is a time that you have Apple’s attention, it’s now.  Let Apple know that the Mac is still very much a viable market and they can make up for years of neglect if they work fast. I know there are a lot of people who have been waiting for a Mac good enough to upgrade to and taking care of them can boost the bottom line. 

    So, how do we let them know in a way where we will be heard? Buying a windows machine isn't going to do it. And then I'm stuck running Windows until Apple finally gets their act together.
    [email protected]

    Be sensible and methodical about what you say. 
    It does work. That is one of the many resources that got Apple to rethink abandoning the display market and retool the Mac Pro which is currently  being re-created. 
    JohnE
  • Reply 18 of 126
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,016member
    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    Well, you can say the same about Apple opening up Metal, right? It all swings multiple ways, and some of them can come to bite Apple more than others. 
    Agreed.  However, I've seen at least a dozen discussions about opening up Metal (or making Vulcan work on Mac/iOS) but none about opening up CUDA (or making it work on other GPUs).  If you want everything open, then at least be consistent about it.
    For me personally, to what extent there is CUDA support or not is not particularly important. The important discussion, however, is that the user community has been voicing strong opinions about the need for an open Mac that can both be tailored to accommodate very diverse hardware configurations, including NVIDIA, and that can also run the widest range of software.
    And if you understand the hardware design philosophy of Apple, then you know that they always choose being able to move forward quickly on new technologies vs having their resources tied up in supporting a multitude of hardware configuration options (as Microsoft did/does with PCs).  The more resources (people/time) you have invested in supporting existing technologies, the less you have for designing or moving to new technologies.  Microsoft was so bogged down in making Windows PCs support all sorts of hardware (including legacy hardware) that they missed the boat on mobile.  That was directly a result of their design choices.

    The Mac Pro presents an interesting dilemma for them because it creates conflicting goals for the company.  On one hand they want it to be modular/configurable, but on the other hand they don't want to tie themselves down in supporting the multitude of 3rd party devices (many poorly designed) which people will configure it to use.  Which is why they generally make it incumbent on 3rd party manufacturers to ensure their hardware is compatible.
    edited January 18 roundaboutnow
  • Reply 19 of 126
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,016member

    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    ElCapitan said:
    auxio said:
    So for all of these CUDA folks who are lobbying for Apple to bring NVIDIA to Mac, did you ever consider lobbying for NVIDIA to open CUDA up to other GPU manufacturers?  Or work together with the Khronos group to make it part of open standards like OpenCL or Vulkan?  These things work both ways you know... but it seems a lot of these posts have a whiff of vested interest in NVIDIA.
    Well, you can say the same about Apple opening up Metal, right? It all swings multiple ways, and some of them can come to bite Apple more than others. 
    Agreed.  However, I've seen at least a dozen discussions about opening up Metal (or making Vulcan work on Mac/iOS) but none about opening up CUDA (or making it work on other GPUs).  If you want everything open, then at least be consistent about it.
    You will experience the same for applications that needs certain versions of OpenGL possibly in combination with GPUs as another example. 
    I design my software to have an abstraction layer for rendering SDKs.  Under which I can use OpenGL, Metal, Vulkan, or anything else.  I don't whine about support.
    longpathStrangeDaysmdriftmeyerroundaboutnowsumjuanalex4dhmurchison
  • Reply 20 of 126
    tbornottbornot Posts: 107member
    I think Apple has chosen AMD and Visio as their vendors of choice for the next big step, TVs with video cards built in being controlled by a small computer, Mac Mini or perhaps even an iPhone.
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