Why Apple’s promise of a new ‘modular’ Mac Pro matters so much

“By now, you’ve probably heard the news: Apple is working on a new, redesigned Mac Pro,” David Gewirtz writes for ZDnet. “The importance of this news cannot be overstated.”

“Let’s not beat around the bush. The continued existence of the entire Mac ecosystem has been in question,” Gewirtz writes. “Yes, Apple has said it cares about the Mac, but its actions haven’t reflected that in ways that matter to the folks who need to make some tough decisions.”

“Apple has behaved, in its events and promotional activities, exactly like one would expect, showcasing the iPhone as the star and the Mac as … not so much,” Gewirtz writes. “The poster child of this problem has been the Mac Pro… After 39 months without an upgrade, the situation has become problematic for many professional users.”

“There’s the entire world of completely customizable, boiling hot desktop PCs out there,” Gewirtz writes. “No, it’s not a market the size of the iPhone. But for a pro who needs to transcode 4K video in realtime, or a scientist who would like to get calculations done this century, it’s been getting increasingly hard to remain loyal to the Mac platform.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’re not entirely sold, yet, that a “modular” Mac Pro replacement coming sometime in the nebulous “next year or later” fully assuages the concerns of many Mac-using professionals.

Satisfying the upper-end of Mac-using professionals is vastly more important that the revenue that can be generated from the market. These are the vocal opinion-makers. Trifle with them at your own risk.

As we wrote back in January, before this week’s news that Apple would be getting back into the Apple-branded display market after an utterly foolish dalliance with trying to sell Mac users on plastic, incorrectly-shielded, UltraUgly LG crap:

For the same reason – mindshare – Apple should make their own Apple displays, even to the point of taking a loss of each and every one, so that other companies’ logos on frankly ugly products that do not match Apple design sensibilities are not in users’ faces all day long. That’s not a difficult concept to grasp; even an inveterate beancounter might be able to get it.

Apple’s cheese grater Mac Pro was flexible, expandable, and powerful – imagine that – April 6, 2017
More about Apple’s Mac Pro – April 6, 2017
Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company – April 6, 2017
Who has taken over at Apple? – April 5, 2017
Apple’s embarrassing Mac Pro mea culpa – April 4, 2017
Who’s going to buy a Mac Pro now? – April 4, 2017
Mac Pro: Why did it take Apple so long to wake up? – April 4, 2017
Apple sorry for what happened with the Mac Pro over the last 3+ years – namely, nothing – April 4, 2017
Apple to unveil ‘iMac Pro’ later this year; rethought, modular Mac Pro and Apple pro displays in the pipeline – April 4, 2017
Apple’s apparent antipathy towards the Mac prompts calls for macOS licensing – March 27, 2017
Why Apple’s new Mac Pro might never arrive – March 10, 2017
Dare we hold out hope for the Mac Pro? – March 1, 2017
Apple CEO Cook pledges support to pro users, says ‘we don’t like politics’ at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting – February 28, 2017
Yes, I just bought a ‘new’ Mac Pro (released on December 19, 2013 and never updated) – January 4, 2017
Attention, Tim Cook! Apple isn’t firing on all cylinders and you need to fix it – January 4, 2017
No, Apple, do not simplify, get better – December 23, 2016
Rare video shows Steve Jobs warning Apple to focus less on profits and more on great products – December 23, 2016
Marco Arment: Apple’s Mac Pro is ‘very likely dead’ – December 20, 2016
How Tim Cook’s Apple alienated Mac loyalists – December 20, 2016
Apple’s not very good, really quite poor 2016 – December 19, 2016
Apple’s software has been anything but ‘magical’ lately – December 19, 2016
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016
Rush Limbaugh: Is Apple losing their edge? – December 9, 2016
AirPods: MIA for the holidays; delayed product damages Apple’s credibility, stokes customer frustration – December 9, 2016
Apple may have finally gotten too big for its unusual corporate structure – November 28, 2016
Apple has no idea what they’re doing in the TV space, and it’s embarrassing – November 3, 2016
Apple’s disgracefully outdated, utterly mismanaged Mac lineup is killing sales – October 13, 2016
Apple takes its eye off the ball: Why users are complaining about Apple’s software – February 9, 2016
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


  1. Everyone’s forgot about the halo effect, including Apple.

    The Mac platform is a wondrous asset. With the iPhone and iPad drawing so much attention, if Apple ever got serious about pushing the Mac to the iPhone’s enterprise customers and mainstream consumers, the Mac could one day be as big a business as the iPhone.

    I know that sounds crazy these days, but people are still buying computers. There’s plenty of market to gobble up if Apple wanted it. And I don’t think it would take much work.

    Keep working on the Apple car. Keep pushing the watch platform forward. Move into television in a proper way (please!). But don’t forget about the Mac. It could be a good business one day : )

    1. What the nitwits at Apple fail to realize is the best days of the Mac are far from behind it and it can be as future great as long as the vision to move it forwards is there. Why would you think for one second of not how to diminish a moneymaker but think of ways instead of moving it to even loftier cash cow heights in business, consumer & professional uses? And start advertising it!

      Anyone not thinking that way at Apple now needs to be shit-canned, tarred & feathered and run out of Cupertino on a rail.

        1. I think what was stated was some pretty obvious business objectives Apple should be taking with the Mac. Opinions don’t require the experience of running of a large corporation or nobody here could say a thing, including you. (In many ways Tim Cook seems to be dropping basic business sense and this recent Mac Pro debacle underlines it.) Next time YOU dare to state an opinion that seemingly requires prior CEO experience I’ll be sure to make a similarly snide and ill-thought out remark.

        2. I agree with P71, if you go to McDonalds you can say “the tables are not clean” without having had run a billion dollar fast food chain .

          Apple made a big fat mistake.
          it’s trying to correct it. Like others I think the one year from now timeline is very slow but I’m glad they’ve not dropped Pros altogether.

          I was in agony thinking I might have to go to Windows eventually.

          Just installed and successfully booted up a 980 ti in a Cheese Grater with sierra (for some tasks triple the GPU power of the high end D700 cylinders )– total cost just over $1000, need more drives and RAM though — so I’m happy as it’ll tide me over the long wait for the new macs. (typing this on another upgraded Cheese Grater).

        3. It’s important to remember that Apple is staggeringly huge business. And also keep in mind the Mac Pro’s strategic value is far higher than it’s revenue. We’re talking about a product that isn’t even a rounding error within the Mac line (and the Mac is a much smaller business than the iPhone by far).

          Tim and Co. are operating at the highest level. Perhaps they could do better, but I don’t believe there’s a team that could perform better than we’re seeing from them.

          We’re watching an F-1 driver operating at the top of his game, and we’re all saying “why don’t you just push a little harder on the accelerator!!” Guess what, it’s just not that easy. They’re driving with the pedal to the metal.

        4. sure I admit Cook and Team are doing some amazing stuff on phones etc.

          But should we then excuse:
          this Mac problem AND
          stuff like the Apple TV REMOTE. Did that F-1 driver EVEN USE the REMOTE before pushing it.
          What about pushing the LG monitor which had shielding issues?

          the thing is I do NOT think the F1 driver is at the top, the elite team is just CRUISING on too many products (MDN has listed all the issues and it takes like a page).

          Apple only makes a tiny HANDFUL of stuff. Even Ive said all their hardware products could fit on a single table.

          Most of the complainers are like me who have followed Apple for a long time and the focus of Jobs seems to be lost. Yeah, there were issues with Jobs stuff as well but they were fixed very quickly and most of the early days Jobs was limited by resources. And Jobs went hard on failing managers.

          Also I think Apple today has to get back to Jobs laser focus on products. for the money issue Note when iPod was making the most money at Apple and pundits were saying Apple should drop Macs etc and become a ‘music’ company Jobs doubled down on Macs and other products.

          Jobs Laser Focus. Jobs didn’t want Apple to do too much social work or charities (although he did it privately with his wife), Apple only matching staffers contributions. That is so that managers did not have to THINK about what charities to contribute too, he only wanted laser focus on PRODUCTS.

          Jobs did not even want to celebrate Apple’s 30th anniversary when staffers suggested a big bash with celebrities. He gave a short one line note dismissing it. Jobs and SVPs didn’t have to spend much time on the celebrations organizations, flunkies could have set it up but he knew IT WOULD SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE to everyone working at Apple. To him Apple cannot rest, to him Apple had to laser focus on products and future.

          (Today we got SVPs making furniture, Christmas trees, Coffee Table books, Apple sponsoring fashion shows like the Met Gala (where Apple products are NOT front and centre) , constantly making speeches at NON TECH events , parties, and millions on weird stuff like Planet of the Apps etc etc )

          I’ve followed Apple for over two decades, an aapl investor and personally I have Mac Pros, 12.9 iPad Pro , MBP and 7 plus phone.

          I want Apple to win.

    2. The mac will never as big of a business as the iPhone. It simply isn’t possible given the market size and demographics of each market. Have you missed the numbers of the last five years reflecting declines in every segment (professional and consumer) of the desktop market? How the growth in enterprise purchases of mobile devices? Do you think the market segment of creative professional can get Apple to where you say they can go? I don’t think it is a question of enterprise picking Mac OS over other systems. It simply isn’t there to take. Even if the Mac captured double the market share they have now or even triple it isn’t going to happen.

      1. “Even if the Mac captured double the market share they have now or even triple it isn’t going to happen”

        did you even glance at Apple’s financials?
        Macs make more money at Apple than other hardware product at Apple except iPhone.

        It made 7 billion vs 5 billion iPad.
        It made near TWICE the revenue of the ‘other products’ category which includes Watch, Apple TV, iPods, Beats, Airpods and other accessories…

        so if you cancel Mac due to low sales you might as well dump iPad, Apple TV, Watch , iPod, Beats, Airpods etc.
        (no flamers I’m not advocating this, by all means push new stuff and other stuff but Mac is important. Note also that iPad sales have fallen to NEAR HALF peak sales a few years ago while Mac has remained nearly steady in spite of neglect and practically no advertising).

        shoot, iPhones make more money than any other product in the world. By itself it makes more than Google and all the cars of Ford. if we have the criteria of ‘give up’ because it makes less than iPhone, all the companies in the world can fold shop.

        Tim Cook spent about 100 Billion (that’s with a B) on buybacks etc to boost the stock. The Number One reason the stock is so low, about half the valuation ( P.E ) of Google, Microsoft (i.e if they had their valuation aapl would be 300 now instead of 100+ ) is that big investors say Apple is a dangerous ONE PRODUCT iPhone company. DIVERSIFYING it’s product line with high earning Macs seems a great solution when you think about the billions in cost for stock buybacks.

        I can go on on why Macs including desktops are important but I’ll stop here for length.

      2. I believe a relatively small investment in their Mac business could conceivably double their sales, and they would still have only a small percentage of the total PC market.

        It seems like a good place to invest. If Apple is less dependant than ever on Mac revenue, it’s a good place to experiment.

        What could the Mac platform be if Apple didn’t have to protect their margins like they have traditionally? What would the Mac look like if it didn’t have to come as a slab of Aluminium?

        Apple has treated the Mac platform like a chess player treats it’s king. Functionally it’s still the centre of my universe, but financially Apple can afford to take chances with it. Put the Mac on the front lines. Get creative with it.

  2. Another report out today says that development of the “modular” Mac Pro has just started in the last few weeks, and it may not appear until 2019.

    If that’s true, they shouldn’t even bother.

    1. The time-frame Apple seems to be shooting for lines up with the “DDR5/10nm/large capacity optane” release dates. But who knows, it is be probably something stupid like what to name it. They have decided it should be called “big honking X” but are having trouble agreeing on what animal or body part X should refer to.

    2. I’ve wondered why Apple could not, as a stopgap, resurrect the cheese grate Mac Pro, fill it will the latest, high performance stuff and sell it. It might sell well. Waiting till 2018 or 2019 is asking too much of many users.

      1. Now that Apple’s attention is once again focused on the Mac pro they’ll want time to overthink and deliver another clever but self-defeating iteration that might be as equally questionable as current offerings (or droppings). Do you trust them to truly deliver is the question?

        I have waited long enough and seeing how Apple doesn’t seem interested in using Nvidia video cards I am forced to move on. It’s becoming more a Premiere Pro (& other Adobe apps) world out there and Nvidia is the playmate it runs with.

        Looking forward to picking and choosing to my heart’s content what I want in a PC Workstation. No one takes choice away from you there.

        1. Yeah, the Nvidia thing is huge. Like it or not, they have become a standard. I am not a fan of where Tim Cook has chosen to put Apple’s emphasis over the last few years. They have endless resources, no department should be floundering like this.

          While they are at it, please stop making bluetooth the only connectivity option, guys and gals. It is not the mature and all-encompassing solution you seem to think it is. The shrinking of *everything* is becoming a bit tiresome, too.

  3. I’m not holding my breath on new machines in this decade. The trash can took forever to get in the pipeline and the wait was painful and embarrassing as they kept rolling back the ship date. Then they over priced it and ignored it! Based on this whole PR stunt, they just woke up, will stumble to get something half ready out the door, have a press conference where they pat them selves on the back, and look foolish in doing it!

  4. Apple needs to remember that pro Mac users aren’t Mac users they’re Adobe users for the most part.

    Switching for them is as simple as the next company refresh.

      1. okok.. so about 0.5% of the single digit % of mac pro users are finalcut/logic users..


        seriously, who actually uses logic? i think I know one person, and he won’t upgrade past 9 because X sucks.

        1. Get your head out your arse dude.
          I use logic Pro been making music as my only career since 1988 before Apple bought Emagic
          I know most Pros logic Pro.
          It has competition now with Abletion 9 but Logic is still the go to Pro music making App
          We need better Mac Pros also!

  5. Hurt the MacPro and it’s users, and all the iDevice ecosystem -on which some are resting their “lucky” asses- will be down ! And to plagiarize MDN: “even an inveterate beancounter might be able to [f$^*g] get it.”

  6. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they created something like the iMac, iMac Advanced, and iMac Pro. The “Pro” being the Xeon based desktop with AMD pro video and the advanced iMac being a high performance gaming type machine, and the iMac being just a standard iMac?

    I wonder which would sell fastest. 😉

  7. Stacking the current MacPros on top of each other would be modularization. No longer demeaning it with the “trash can” label,” it could then be known as a phallus, a scientific name. Now that society is producing masculinized women and feminized men – pollution promotes the creation of estrogen in men and so does the consumption of soy products – women could then make sexist remarks about the stacked MacPro, “My, look how he’s stacked,” thus reversing traditional sexist roles.

  8. I really think Elvis has left the building on the creative pro market with the Macintosh. Tim obsession with iOS and services at the expense of the Mac has left Apple with an overpriced, outdated lineup of molasses slow HW on an increasingly buggy OS.

    I love the Mac and never had to switch to it. I bought my first Mac at the Robinson Barracks PX (now long gone) in Stuttgart, (then) West Germany as soon as they were available- having already seen one at work where a co-worker flew home to the US just to buy one. I learned to write programs in BASIC on Apple IIs storing the work on cassette drives as a Freshman in College. I have been a customer for a very long time, but I am well beyond pissed over the obsession with iOS at the expense of everything else.

    I work in Medical Imaging (Radiology) these days and we use computers for everything and they range from HP Thin Clients for HIS to high powered Xeon Workstations with custom Graphics cards for Volume Rendering and all the other stuff we do to create images for Medical Diagnostics and Radiation Therapy. Over the years we have used about every flavor of OS and brand of HW made, starting with Data General units that had Hard Drives the size of washing machines that drove our CT Scanners and all in command line interface- not the GUIs with touch screens we have today.

    The simple truth is Apple is not only behind in the Hardware department- they are not even seriously in the game. Their stuff is expensive, not easy to maintain, almost impossible to expand and way slower at any price point than what can be bought from others. Killing the server and the Mac Pro workstation took them completely out of the game- nobody in many Pro markets is going to take a glued shut iMac as a serious piece of Hardware.

    If Apple were a poor, struggling company with limited resources one might understand. The problem is Apple is an embarrassingly wealthy company with more employees than they have ever had and yet they seem to be less able to ship anything other than iPhones and successively more jacked up versions of iTunes. With the resources of Apple they should be able to keep the iPad, iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, Mac Laptop and Mac Desktop lines state of the art and ahead of the curve AND all the services shit and toys like the Watch.

    In my business it would be like having an 800 Bed Hospital that can only take care of 1 patient at a time despite massive resources and staff. Instead of making speeches at Auburn, Tim Cook needs to be home in Cali kicking some ass.

    Years ago I made my living as a Photographer- video and still- and have played Music all my life. I was one of the people who paid full price for Final Cut Studio, for Logic Pro and for Aperture and ran it all on a Mac Pro. When Apple dropped those SW packages and did not give us even an upgrade discount and trashed the workstation for the Trashcan, to say I was pissed is an understatement.

    I know people in various fields that love the Mac but have been or are being forced- by Apple- to walk away from Macs because they seem not to give a shit about anything that is not social media or mobile. Many people in those areas do not change out their hardware every two years and never will because of the complexity of the stuff linked to the computers that usually costs as much or more than the Mac. Cook and Company are ceding the educational market to Chromebooks and the creative Pro and scientific markets to Windows and LINUX and that is sad.

    For years, when you would see a film or vide of a scientist or researcher in their office you would see a Mac Workstation in the background- the UNIX base well suited to interface with mainframes and such. You also saw them in editing suites, graphic artists and music recording studios, etc. That is all being given up and it simply did not have to be.

    Apple has been the natural home for a couple of generations of the best and brightest in many areas of endeavor. That fact gave the platform an image competitors would have killed for. That is all going away due to neglect, incompetence and arrogance.

    I would say Apple has one at bat left in this market and if they wait too long or deliver another ill-conceived styling exercise to the Pro market they are done for good as a maker of serious computer hardware.

    Steve Jobs once famously used the analogy of cars and trucks and he said there would always be trucks. Someone should tell Tim Cook that a MacBook Pro or an iMac are cars- crossovers at best. The old Mac Pro Workstation was the Ford F-250 4×4 of the Apple universe and some of us still want and need it.

    I have been an Apple Customer since Jimmy Carter was in the White House and when my Mac Pro (2010 generation) dies it will not be replaced by an iMac or a MacBook Pro. It will be a proper workstation or I will go elsewhere. There are plenty more like me.

    I stood in line the night of the launch of the Public Beta of Mac OS X not only as a long time customer, but as a shareholder, when not many held out much hope for Apple as anything but a struggling niche player in a Microsoft World. I do not want to turn my back on the Mac, but how they handle this will signal if they are serious about the OS going forward. Fuck this up Tim Cook and I am out the door.

    1. I’m guessing here, but it looks like iOS at it’s hardware is the pacing product and Mac and other hardware languish in it’s trailing flotsam.

      Mac and it’s associated hardware / software should be separated and run as an independent business, with managers properly organized and incentivized to successfully grow the business.

  9. I feel like the entire MacOS product line is a bastard stepchild to iOS. Three cases in point: MacOS does not have the TV, HomeKit or News apps. As a product manager it is quite clear to me that Apple is purposely segmenting their product lines to subtly give iOS advantages. Personally I think its a mistake as a PM to defeature a Pro model of anything or in any way limit your workhorse/most productive devices.

    No question, Jobs would be livid about this.

  10. I am a hardware torturer. I need heavy metal.

    A “modular” Mac Pro. It sound as if Apple is going to complicate again what should be easier and standard (dangerous). Standard means functional and I need function over style to finish the work I am doing.

    Apple design the case to your liking but leave the internal as standard desktop parts.

    The iMac is the biggest Apple laptop. I have 2 and I broke 1.

    So the iMac is fast and capable for way less demanding jobs or sustained torture but I need to torture my hardware. Also I need CUDA and a fast GPU. And even more I need to service my machines very fast and in a reliable way.

  11. I know everyone is quick to criticize Tim Cook for the failings with the Mac product line and Mac Pro, in particular, but I hate to say it but I think its Phil Schiller who is to blame. I think he believes Apple’s own propaganda about design and has taken it too literally to mean looking different. They’ve not done as good of a job understanding the users experience with Mac Pros as they do on iOS devices. I love him, but he is starting to appear out of touch and stuck on the way he’s always done things.

  12. Here’s an interesting point of view from an e-mail i got from an Oscar winning friend of mine (who won for an extremely well-known space movie) about this whole Mac Pro debacle:

    Unhappy MaxPro users behave like the abused wife Nicole Kidman plays, brilliantly, in Big Little Lies.

    Yes, they know Apple beat them up by making it obligatory to buy a raft of low-bandwidth “Thunderbolt” accessories. But the connector is small, so that’s OK.

    Yes, Apple pretended Thunderbolt 2 is Much Better than its equivalent 4X Pcie 2 speed. Besides, who needs 16X slots or Pcie 3?

    Yes, Apple took away upgrades of the GPU and the CPU. But they put those parts in a Tiny Jony Ives So Designed Black Cylinder.

    Yes, there’s no PCIe slots, unless you connect via the low-bandwidth Thunderbolt. Besides, PCIe is SO OLD SCHOOL and every pro on the planet uses it, so why should I?

    Yes, Apple didn’t upgrade the MacPro in almost 4 years, but Apple went to Therapy and now Promises they’ll be good, not like when they were drunk with Design Power, and deliver what they didn’t deliver before or upgrade.

    Besides, Apple even admitted they took a shit on the face of the loyal Mac Pro users who are married to Apple. But from now on, they will behave themselves in an Exemplary Manner. Apple won’t say How they will behave, but they Promise to be so good.

    No, Apple’s not arrogant when it says it will not say HOW it will right the stupidity of its past. The future behavior is a Secret. If we told you, you might run to marry Windows or Linux, and just like Nicole Kidman’s Big Little Lies husband, we’d have to kill you if you did that?

    The marriage counselor says the New Secret Mac Pro will be just as abusive as the current Mac Pro. There’s nothing to “design” when all the pro desktop computers on the planet today use PCIe 3, have upgradeable GPU, CPU and RAM.

    What Apple has to “design” is how to strangle CPU upgrades, solder the RAM, and give the abused wife the ability to buy Apple’s GPU upgrades.

    Time to dump the “design” jerk-off and move on to a real pro computer? Or stick around and HOPE Apple’s not the Mac Pro wanker it proved itself to be?

    1. This friend of mine uses tricked out 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro’s with Titan-X cards and the best 12 processor CPU’s btw. He loves Macs and recognizes their value and productivity advantages, but Apple hasn’t loved pro users back.

  13. I’ll request it again:

    A Mac Pro in a 1U rack space suitable for power users in studio and on location: Music, cinema, photography, multimedia. It could be easily paired with storage and I/O devices (Black Magic, Apogee, Motu, Prism, etc.). And with powerful wired and wireless connection — say, hosting multiple iPads/MBAs for session participants (as controllers, monitors, etc.), it could be a popular and essential piece of gear for digital creatives.

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