Editorial: Mac Pro puts the pedal to Metal in Apple's race with Nvidia



  • Reply 41 of 58
    It's true that right now the GPU situation for Macs is terrible. Gaming is thus badly hampered, when it's even possible.

    I expect that to change very quickly over the next three years or so, and not because Apple has any interest in gaming on the Mac. (They may finally be developing one, but I'll believe that three or four years after I see it.)

    Apple has a deep interest in AR and VR. They understand that it is, ultimately, the future of computing, just as the GUI was the future of computing back in, say, 1982. The Lisa came in 1983, the Mac in 1984, and Windows 3 (the first "real" GUI on PC) came in 1990. It took a while, but that revolution is complete - you haven't been able to buy a CLI-based mass-market PC for many years (and no, Linux, the Mac Terminal, and Windows command.com don't disprove that). Similarly, we don't even have a clear vision of what an AR/VR-based computing paradigm will look like yet, but we can see it coming. We are living today in the 1982 of AR/VR.

    But the pace of technological advance is faster today than it was then, and Apple is a big part of that. I expect that they will make a big push to release mass-market (i.e., *not* the nnMP) Mac hardware sometime in the next few years capable of handling real AR/VR. Maybe along with a push to use ARM, maybe not, but either way, you know what that will require? Massive GPU capability.

    Gaming will, most likely, be a major accidental beneficiary of that market force.

    (It's an interesting question to ponder, will Apple still support even AMD GPUs then, or will they go all-in with their own GPU? I hope they will support AMD, but wouldn't be at all surprised to see them ship their own GPU, and restrict Metal to that.)
  • Reply 42 of 58
    chaickachaicka Posts: 257member
    Hahahaha.....Tell that to Microsoft too. Even Windows Pro, Office Pro, and whatever ‘Pro’ equipment and software out there currently has limitations. No hardware and software are without limits/boundaries.
  • Reply 43 of 58
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Philips did the same.
  • Reply 44 of 58
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Nice sum up by the way. I disliked CUDA from the start.
    I think Apple is very good at making advanced libraries, especially for paralel processing and graphics.
    Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) job queues is a great example for CPU’s and I think its even possible to dispatch ‘Metal’ (GPU) jobs nowadays?
  • Reply 45 of 58
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Mathworks Matlab to add support for GPGPU through Metal. Currently, they only support CUDA, and I have a lot o graphics power left on the table, while plowing through 5G simulations!
  • Reply 46 of 58
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,378member
    Framing this as a race with Nvidia is weird. I doubt the Mac Pro will make a noticeable dent in Nvidia sales.

    But what has crystallized for me in reading these articles and comments is that the Mac Pro is primarily a powerful tool for people who create content for apple’s ecosystem. It’s also a tool for people using apples pro apps (FCP etc).

    given the size of apples ecosystem, this means the Mac Pro will have a big enough market.

    but it’s useful for people (like me) who love macOS, need a powerful computer, but aren’t creating content for apples ecosystem, that the Mac Pro may not be the best answer, at least for now. Sad, but true.

    my Hope is that the Mac Pro succeeds in the niche at which it is currently targeted and that Apple i
    will then expand the target to include folks like me 

  • Reply 47 of 58
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,378member
    Strange that the history part of the article ignored the significance of 24 bit Nubus graphics cards in the Mac II. The IIci was a particularly successful model from that lineup that was sold for many years. The reference to the IIfx really understated the importance of the II. 

    But maybe the IIci — a midrange pro Mac — has to be ignored now in order to push the line that there is no room for a midrange pro Mac. I know I’d love to see a modern IIci
  • Reply 48 of 58
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Wow, I wasn't expecting a video from Bad Influence to crop up in an AI article.  What a blast from the past.
  • Reply 49 of 58
    JA27JA27 Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Apple's strategy about AI and ML failed miserable due his efforts to take away nVidia and position Metal in the 3D-AR development scenario, notwithstanding Apple strategy is gaining traction with 3D and general rendering market (where metal was aimed), can't say the same about ML/AI where CUDA Reigns and Rule by de Facto, just look at ML and AI related research papers, almost all where done with CUDA very few with custom TPU or FPGA hardware and almost none with with metal performance shaders, not even AMD sponsored (Linux only) ROCm, change this reality will take long time even I'm convinced CUDA's reign won't be ever handed  over to another GPGPU but to purpose specific hardware as TPU, FPGA and many-core hybrid HPC modules as ExaNoDe, apple can do little to remedy this while nVidia still  can maneuver around  and bypass  drivers approval denial as to build a non-gpu driver enabling CUDA GPU as a non-gpu peripheral  for non graphic acceleration duties and patching CUDA to run this way requires infinitely less effort than to support metal specification and do not require apple approval as non-gpu related drivers with the new macOS driver API do not require approval by apple, I believe it could happen very soon and will be a good thing for apple, and Mac pro will sell like cakes as it's support for CUDA accelerated ML/HPC will be reinstalled, maybe Intel which also develop it's FPGA and own compute acceleration solutions (GPU, fpgas,tpu/npu) under SYCL could be enabled this way allowing developers enjoy macOS features as before.
    edited October 2019
  • Reply 50 of 58
    thttht Posts: 5,530member
    blastdoor said:
    Strange that the history part of the article ignored the significance of 24 bit Nubus graphics cards in the Mac II. The IIci was a particularly successful model from that lineup that was sold for many years. The reference to the IIfx really understated the importance of the II. 

    But maybe the IIci — a midrange pro Mac — has to be ignored now in order to push the line that there is no room for a midrange pro Mac. I know I’d love to see a modern IIci
    There’s a lot of history that’s always left out in these types of articles. Really can’t cover it all. The framing of Nvidia versus Apple in terms of GPU is indeed odd, I agree. Maybe Apple is propping up AMD more than just being a customer, who knows, but Apple doesn’t compete with Nvidia. They did have a job to do with the Mac Pro in offering competitive cards to Nvidia, and it looks like they did that. So good. But like everyone and their brother is saying, they need to continue to update the model every year.

    The iMac Pro really should be updated to Xeon W 2200 series CPUs. The case should be modified for user accessible RAM.

    And the push for a more varied lineup of Macs, iPads and iPhones should be continued. They really need to realize it is ok to have a multiple product lines. It’s ok to have a $2500 headless machine and an iMac at $3000. It’s ok to have a 15” low end laptop and a 15” high end laptop. Not ok to go 1990s era crazy, but they sell almost 20m Macs a year. They basically have to diversify the lineup more to sell more.
  • Reply 51 of 58
    kbeekbee Posts: 25member
    Yeah, there may be a niche market and it may be a cash cow for Apple - but the world is open, there is no metal on embedded hardware, there is no metal on iot hardware, there is no metal running on Linux. 
    I simply cannot imagine a student who writes something in Metal if his professor doesn‘t own a Mac. Anything that is published on the web, written in a doctor thesis - will it be written in Metal? Machine Learning used in the automotive industry written in Metal? Pah - will only happen for Apple cars.

    Most of the tools that need Vulkan will use a wrapper like MoltenVK - and some game engines already do. For most of the developers Metal is just a pain in the a.. . For some great tools like Blender it simply doesn‘t pay off to port the software to Metal.

    If someone tells you that Microsoft only supports DirectX this may be true. But on Windows OpenGL, CUDA and Vulkan support ships with the drivers of the graphic card vendors so it isn‘t a problem to have proper support of open standards on a Windows machine and it isn‘t a problem on a Linux system. 
    Under Tim Cook Apple devices have sadly evolved to completely closed, proprietary, locked down all soldered and glued devices. Since I switched all of my graphics development work to Linux I feel free again. I hope Apple will crash and burn following their strategy.
  • Reply 52 of 58
    SkewMatrixSkewMatrix Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I worked with OpenGL primarily for 20+ years. After reading the article and comments, I have only one thing to say. I'm glad I'm retired.
  • Reply 53 of 58
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,444member
    dysamoria said:

    dysamoria said:
    Game development on a Mac Pro huh...? Doubt it. That is a PC development world. Games do get ported to Mac OS sometimes, and gamers consistently complain that the performance is inferior on Mac OS (even when run on the same hardware as Windows).

    More importantly: Two of the major game *engines* (Unreal and Unity, not iD-tech) are ported, but not necessarily the development tools. The development is still primarily Windows-based. CryTek even seemed to have abandoned the Mac porting feature for CryEngine, shortly after announcing CryEngine (originally tied to DirectX on Windows) would be massively cross-platform.

    Am I holding old info? Have these engines’ development environments and toolchains actually been ported to Mac OS?

    Even if developing games on a Mac Pro would be fast enough to justify studios buying Mac Pros for development (all the positive wow statements mean nothing for Mac Pro sales), the game itself would have to be cut down massively to run on *any other Apple product* (the ones consumers can actually afford to buy).

    The same thing happens to PC games, as we see when developers show off BS at E3 and then ship games with far inferior-looking versions of the same games... but the GPU performance on Windows is consistently higher level for desktop gaming than on Mac OS, and only the non-anorexic Macs were ever competitive at all (while still running Windows).


    Is Apple actually going to start courting gaming on Macs? How will they do that?
    First, Apple "actually" started courting games for Mac OS X in 2001. These engines have been on the Mac for many years. So what's new is development making its way to the Mac. And the quotes, while certainly only words, do indicate that is happening.  

    The quote from Unity literally states it "will give creators everything they need to create the next smash-hit game, augmented reality experience or award-winning animated feature"

    Epic says its "Unreal Engine on the new Mac Pro takes advantage of its incredible graphics performance to deliver amazing visual quality, and will enable workflows that were never possible before on a Mac. We can't wait to see how the new Mac Pro enhances our customers' limitless creativity in cinematic production, visualization, games and more."

    Pretty clear they are not talking about playing games on Mac Pro hardware. OF course, games being optimized for DirectX is the reason why games would play better on Windows than any other platform. So the goal and the incentive are both obvious to Apple. It's noteworthy that Apple is drawing attention to gaming, given that its priority has been pro creative apps. 
    I see your bolded text, I’m just not seeing any explicit statements that the entire game development pipeline is available on Mac OS. I see a lot of “forward looking statements” with words like “will give” and “will enable”... I’ve been down that path with platforms before. It doesn’t mean the pipeline is there NOW. If you have more explicit statements of fact about the development pipeline on Mac OS for non-mobile gaming, I’m all eyes.

    What do you mean by "entire game development pipeline is available on Mac OS"? I have Unreal Editor and Unity 3D installed on my Mac right now, and if I wanted to, I could jump into either, build a game, and deploy at a click across all major mobile, VR, desktop, console, and TV platforms plus the Web. 

    dysamoria said:
    I’ve waited since before the 2013 Mac Pro for an Apple machine that I could use for desktop-level gaming in Windows, while doing everything else in Mac OS. The only reason I didn’t buy the 2013 Mac Pro was Apple’s refusal to sell a retina-class display of their own making. I kept waiting. I really REALLY never want to do a PC again. However, in 2019, Apple announced that they’re kicking me (and many others) out of their Mac Pro market by pricing it at TWICE as much as the last model.
    You can't get "kicked out" of a market you were never really in.
  • Reply 54 of 58
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,444member
    tht said:
    tht said:
    dysamoria said:
    Is Apple actually going to start courting gaming on Macs? How will they do that?
    They are not trying to woo PC games on Macs. They are trying to woo iOS gamers on Macs with Arcade. So if PC games go through a side door with Arcade, great. Otherwise, really doubtful they are going to make a play in the 3D FPS PC games market.
    I don't think Apple is "trying to woo iOS gamers on Macs with Arcade."

    It is trying to woo iOS developers to also make Mac gamers for Arcade.
    And yes, it is also "trying to woo PC games on Macs," initially with the cross platform OpenGL, and now with the optimized Metal.
    Apple doesn't need to "make a play in the 3D FPS PC games market." Its customers are Mac users, and it wants software for them.

    They have not made any effort to get 3D games for Mac users. If they did, they’d actually sell Macs that can play 3D games. It’s not much of a market for game developers at all for Macs. The vast majority are laptop sales, and of the desktops, it’s basically only the iMac 27”. Just don’t see any real attempt.

    Lots of effort for content creation obviously. But PC games? Really no effort but the perfunctory effort.

    But yeah, Apple Arcade looks to be their gaming play for Macs in the foreseeable future.
    What makes you think you can't play 3D games on a Mac? I can with mine.
  • Reply 55 of 58
    All the video editing capabilities are great but Apple still is abandoning the science market that is dependent on CUDA and OpenGL based tools that will never be migrated to Metal.

    Our users are using software that is primarily run on Linux clusters but I’m positive we’d buy a lot of Mac Pros if we could add an Nvidia GPU to do some of the work on the desktop as well. Since that isn’t an option we’ll be buying SuperMicro based gear.
  • Reply 56 of 58
    tomahawk said:
    All the video editing capabilities are great but Apple still is abandoning the science market that is dependent on CUDA and OpenGL based tools that will never be migrated to Metal.

    Our users are using software that is primarily run on Linux clusters but I’m positive we’d buy a lot of Mac Pros if we could add an Nvidia GPU to do some of the work on the desktop as well. Since that isn’t an option we’ll be buying SuperMicro based gear.
    I’m not sure “abandoning” is the right word, since they’ve been out of that market for a while. This article is arguing the opposite. With the Mac Pro and Metal, Apple is positioning itself to re-enter that market and begin to compete with Nvidia and CUDA.

    In the short term, Apple is betting audio, video, and graphics will be enough to keep the project afloat. In the long term, never say “never.” ... Software developers for science and emerging technologies could find that the Metal API is an attractive option, with performance that rivals or exceeds CUDA, combined with the luxury of Apple’s developer tools. For this strategy to work, as the article states repeatedly, Apple will have to keep the Mac Pro (and Metal) up to date and not get complacent.

    Nvidia could have adopted OpenCL in 2009 as AMD did, but they chose not to. They made their bed. They’ve had a decade of dominance, but Apple today has heft and agility. AMD can rely on that. I can’t really see Nvidia becoming complacent like Intel did, but this is serious competition that will be good for everyone.

    I think I’d look toward healthcare for areas of science where Apple is particularly well-positioned to break Nvidia’s hold.
  • Reply 57 of 58
    If Apple really wants to fully compete with Nvidia, they need to work with the Swift for TensorFlow folks to have Metal be a backend for TensorFlow on the Mac, using AMD GPUs. This would be extremely beneficial for both Apple and AMD. Right now, nearly all machine learning development is done using Nvidia GPUs, because of CUDA. I would be thrilled if I could the same code that trains my convolutional neural net on my Ubuntu box with my Nvidia GPU and run it, without modification, on a MacBook Pro. I really think Swift will eventually become the primary language for machine learning, so Metal coupled with TensorFlow is a no brainer! Also, might not hurt for Apple to also open source Metal, so it could truly become an industry standard.
  • Reply 58 of 58
    DetnatorDetnator Posts: 287member
    It is not a question of Metal vs CUDA. Metal is a weaker language for GPGPU than CUDA but it is getting better and should reach parity at some point in the future. The issue is that a "Pro" computer must allow users to install any GPU and drivers that they wish. The decision must be up to the customer not the manufacturer.
    Sigh... Cleary some truly educated (armchair) engineering here. /s

    I know this is an old thread, but I was reading through and saw this and have to say something.  These kinds of comments are just so ridiculous...

    I suppose a "real" car must allow users to install any engine, transmission, suspension, etc. in it too?  So BMW's "Ultimate Driving Machine" (and the equivalent philosophies from Mercedes, Ferrari, etc.) is complete BS, right?  Do you really think if BMW made a car and said "here put whatever engine or transmission you like in it" it would really drive/perform anywhere near as well?

    I don't think you understand what these things are and what Apple is doing, and achieving. Apple has ALWAYS been working towards providing a package that does what it's intended to do really well and not necessarily much else. And the vast majority of Apple's target user base prefer that - ie. that Apple does (relatively) few things really well, instead of trying to do everything and doing most of it half-assed like certain other companies.

    The biggest reason why Windows machines can't do the stuff the Mac Pro does anywhere near as well as the Mac Pro does, is because MS and all its hardware OEMs leave everything open to the user.  Or to put it another way: The very reasons Apple's Mac Pro does what it does better than anything else, is because they - the manufacturer - made the decisions.  I think Apple's educated and highly skilled engineers knows what works - for its intended purposes - better than you or any other average Joe User.

    Read some of the feedback from those "Pro" companies about this "Pro" computer - paragraph after paragraph, quote after quote, under the "Comments from Metal developers" heading.  Do you see any of them complaining that it doesn't run CUDA or have the option to put NVIDIA cards in it?  I think Apple's doing the right thing listening to their opinions over yours. 

    [Really what you're saying is you just don't want to have to PAY Apple to make the decisions. You want their free OS to run on any old hardware you put together, and you resent that they won't give you their OS to do that with. Otherwise, why do you even care what Apple does? If your opinion about "pro" computers is truly as stated above, then why don't you just buy - or build - whatever PC hardware you want, and run whatever software you want on it (except macOS)?]
    edited June 2020
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