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

“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,” William Gallagher and Mike Wuerthele write for AppleInsider.

“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,” Gallagher and Wuerthele write. “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.”

“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,” Gallagher and Wuerthele write. “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.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Or not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

However, if true, it would give new meaning to “Build to Order.”


    1. So I PRAY this is a bs or wrong report. This is a disaster and IMO is a proxy for a dying company.

      First, if the connector is Thunderbolt 4, which the podcaster reported as being 64Gbps (and even if we get 80Gbps) is enough to power only one 8K display. Thunderbolt 3 basically is PCI3 x4 slot speed. Which means it’s 1/4 the speed of a x16 slot. Also, PCI5 is being finalized this year, with a 128GB/s throughput, compared to what would be a 16GB/s max speed for thunderbolt. Basically you could drive 8 or so 8k displays from a single PCI5 x16 slot, and one from thunderbolt. Forget 400gbps ethernet that is coming out and the fact that PCI5 bus speed is greater than DDR3 and some DDR4 RAM! Youre a mac users, so just eat it with 10Gbps ethernet, you don’t deserve more.

      Second, a form factor the size of a mac mini stack is a disaster. How will you add real full size GPUs? In a vertical stack over 18″ tall. This thing will become the leaning tower of Pisa with 2 video cards.

      Third, you still will have rats nest of cables behind it because you will need separate power supplies for each lego brick.

      Forth, you will now have some proprietary connector no one will build for. You make it difficult and more expensive to have 3rd party graphics cards.

      There is some chance they have come up with some custom PCI5 speed back plane connector, unlikely but I guess theoretically possible, which would change a lot of the above.

      But this just sounds like a tone deaf response to the pro/enthusiast users where apple’s whim’s of design are placed above the needs of pro/enthusiast users.

      I PRAY I’m wrong. To me, the Mac Pro is the proxy for all of Apple. If they blow it, it means the company is dying. Particularly in light of the Samsung Galaxy/Fold announcements, I worry that Apple even will have a mildly interesting product in September to compete. A 3rd lens on the same old iPhone will not cut it. They better have an iPhone that when plugged into a screen/mouse can run macOS and have your whole world with you or something else amazing. Otherwise, it’s going to look terribly boring and lackluster.

      I’m rooting for apple, but I havent been this worried since 1996…

      1. What’s worse is by wasting all this time and money on R&D on this unwanted, unnecessary “revolutionary” modular technology, they’ll feel justified putting an exorbitant starting price on these modules. Think $2500 for the base box, and each add-on is at least $1000 (it’s not just the video card or drives, after all, it’s the needless chassis and new connector tech).

        Basically, they’ll have learned 100% the wrong lesson from the trashcan Mac Pro, where everything was external and had to be connected by a snake’s nest of wires. They’ll think the problem was the wires, not the inherent problem with attached peripherals.

  1. Before the release of the Mac Cube, I had imagined translucent cubes in the colors of the first iMac that could be stacked in cluster. I did a short demonstration in 3D animation. But, barely broadcasted on Mac forums, I received a very threatening summons from Apple lawyers… Eventually, I had it right!
    But of course, at that time there was no Thunderbolt…

  2. Elegant if true but not environmentally sound because of the repetitive box unless it has a built-in degradation date. Even with this novel expandability, Apple is doing all it can to hold back appealing to real pros as much as it can. I would say that Apple listened to pros but discarded 50% of what it heard. I know that its tight sphincter muscle is tearing even with this possible reluctant expulsion.

    1. The fact is, Mr. Dingler, that you don’t really know much at all about the Mac Pro other than what is contained in Apple press releases and the fact that it is long, long overdue.

      I hope that the new Mac Pro is truly fabulous. I could use a “next big thing” moment right now. I am not a Cook basher, as seems to be the fad on this forum, but there is no doubt that Cook was far better as an assistant to Steve Jobs than as a replacement. However, that same statement applies to just about anyone, because people like Steve are almost irreplaceable in their time.

      Unlike some others, I remain positive and hopeful about the future of Apple and its products and ecosystem, despite some stumbles over the past five years or so. There were stumbles under Steve Jobs, too. Progress almost never occurs in a straight line.

      1. Bashing is not a “fad” it’s called FACTUALLY STATING REALITY. Unlike you, some are simply saying the same thing in much stronger terms that would offend ONLY a snowflake. It’s all good and means the same.

        “there is no doubt that Cook was far better as an assistant to Steve Jobs than as a replacement.”

        The best graf I have ever read from you.! 👍🏻

        Now that the supreme fanboys even agree, time for a CEO replacement…

  3. Exactly as I wrote yesterday… the long development time strongly suggested some newfangled, untested (in real life) solution, with long-suffering Mac professionals as the guinea pigs. We saw exactly how badly the guinea pigs got shafted testing the Mac Pro for Apple.

    Apple has no respect or loyalty for high-end pro users. So, there’s no reason for them to remain loyal to Apple.

  4. You have to be kidding me, I was expecting something of this nature way back when we knew the cheese graters were being replaced. I convinced myself that was the ligical design to go for. Instead we got the trash can which seemed odd if the modular idea was indeed achievable. Being no engineer I assumed for some reason it was not actually a feasible idea. Now it seems, if belatedly it might indeed come to fruition. The connecting system might be the secret to its success but if I could visualise it probably ten years back I wonder why they would not create a sympathetic design (hey square perhaps) that. could easily transform into this logical concept as time and technical progress allowed, without as is the case now a massive rethink and re design? Oh I forgot Cooks in charge and has no vision and the design team has a preference for camels… though you might have hoped someone with influence inside Apple might have had the wit to have visualised it.

  5. All I can say is, “I hope like hell not.”

    Stacked boxes with an Apple only connector between them will be a nightmare. As just one example: Think of a conversion from the CPU support chip to PCIe to Apple only connector (according to the video NOT PCIe) back to PCIe to a very high end video card. Can any of you say, “Huge bottleneck.”? Now add in a second very high end video card for high end computational work. How will the GPU to GPU communications for that work with the added translations and latency? There’s a very good chance it won’t.

    IF true (and I hope it’s not), It is simply a way for Apple to guarantee you must buy things from Apple — at Apple’s pricing.

    Further, the thermodynamics of this kind of configuration will be a nightmare. Let’s put a box with a very large spinning hard drive on top of a box with a 300W GPU. Prediction: that cooked hard drive will last months not years.

    And, that “proprietary connector”? Those of us with a long and intimate history with Apple may remember QuickRing, an Apple proprietary adjunct & replacement for NUBUS. It was not a bad design, but it had many quirks. In the final analysis only one NUBUS card vendor picked it up to ship commercially ship it as an additional bus to NUBUS. Even Apple never implemented it. Why would Apple go down that road again? It shouldn’t.

    Also, the prediction is that the “brain” box is the only one with a power cord is scary. The brain box might have to supply 700 W or more up to the boxes above it in addition to providing as much as 300 W to the brain box itself. So, if the imagery is anything close to what ships, that effectively means an external brick for the real power supply.

    And, don’t even get me started on a soldered on CPU for a pro machine.

    If this modular design with lots of stacked boxes is truly the next Mac Pro, then it is extremely likely that Apple has lost me as a pro customer — after over 40 years. That heavily upgraded 2012 Mac Pro (new CPUs, new GPU, new RAM, new drives) may turn out to be the last Mac Pro in my home office too.

    1. Yes, I joke around but I pose a serious question: I wonder which recent Mac or Apple lap top would your fully specked cheese grater MacPro compare closest to regarding power and capability?

  6. Mac Mini Pro.

    Apple is searching for a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Separate expansion chassis for PCIe cards would be acceptable, if full 16-lane PCIe link. But if some awful Apple connector and no support for NVIDIA or other vendor PCIe cards, then it will be a disaster and another “up your’s” from Apple to real professionals.

    Just update the cheese grater mechanical with new processors and memory.

    1. Agreed. The cheese-grater Mac Pro modular design is about as simple as it gets especially for upgrading using non-proprietary parts.

      Why would Apple have to overthink such a simple solution. Stacking boxes is definitely non-standard, so I don’t really see the point of that except Apple sells the boxes and they can charge you more. Such a closed-garden hardware approach for a pro-level machine doesn’t make much sense at all. That’s also a waste of materials for such a supposedly ecology-minded company.

      BTW, MacOS Mojave doesn’t even have drivers for NVidia GPUs, so NO support for NVidia GPUs is already a done deal. Apple and NVidia are having some sort of spat and so users have to suffer.

      1. i have to agree that the cheese grater design is a classic of industrial design, great looking and functional – like a 68 mustang fastback – hard to imagine it could be improved upon. easy access to internals and easy swap out of components.

        depending on how this modular design turns out, it might be time to invest in buying an old cheese grater and perpetually spec-ing it out to current standards of performance.

        although i hope i am wrong, i have an uncomfortable hunch that mr. apple has once again over-thought the macpro like they did with the trash can and have come up with something far less elegant than what preceded it.

  7. One Prius full of engineers could have created a three-level series of Mac Pro machines in about six months total. A Mac Mini-sized box for the semi-pros, a mid tower size for those with more storage needs, and a full tower size for those who need multiple drive bays and a set of full size slots.

    If they come out with this stack concept, as someone mentioned above, the power cables will be a mess and every box will need it’s own fan. Or, if they consolidate power in the main box, the heat in that thing will be substantial. If they go for an external brick, it will be the size of a cinder block.

  8. We would also want to rack-mount some of these new MacPros, along with other connected equipment… So the design needs to accommodate requirement too, as well as the ‘stand alone’ configuration.

    1. A competent company would have maintained a rackmount server and also a real desktop workstation and a killer 17” pro grade laptop in its lineup for the past decade.

      The trashcan, if it had to see the light of day, would have been the consumer grade step above the mini and would have been priced properly and updated regularly with new cpus and gpus like every other company seems capable of doing. There would be no iMac Pro because everyone knows that pros don’t want laptop components in a nonupgradeable skinny box tied to a single small screen. Yes, 27” is small.

      I can only imagine that Cook hates Mac users because he sure as hell has mismanaged the entire platform to make it a complicated and expensive endeavor to choose a Mac over a much better designed PC these days.

  9. Thunderbolt 3 or 4 is no PCIe 5.0. I guess PCIe slots are just too “techy” than a simpler & sexier port plug.

    “Dumbing things down in the name of early obsolescence.” – Apple

    Sadly it’s looking more and more like not the Mac Pro we were waiting for and precisely the kind of clueless nonsense Apple is now known for.

  10. (Typing this on ungraded, CPU, RAM, Nvidia Card, Cheese Grater. I have two more Cheese Graters in the house).

    Gwad, I don’t know how much of the guy’s predictions are true but it does make worrisome listening.

    To me his predictions are like Apple Engineers chasing after a non-existent problem (probably to prove how smart they are or something).

    Take the New Mac Mini, the engineers are very proud they managed to squeeze so much into a small box… Yet admitted they couldn’t put in a GPU (even an empty customer option slot ) and made the RAM very hard to remove.

    But why make it so THIN? Two generations ago the Mini was a tad BIGGER but you could remove the RAM , held in by a clip, in a minute. They also had a quad core version in that Mini which they reduced to two in the smaller following machine and smaller size required GLUED in the RAM .

    Why make a DESKTOP (i.e not a mobile) smaller by a few inches and lose so much? See engineers chasing after non-existent problems. When they made the machine smaller, lost the quad and glued the RAM , they lost sales and that’s why the Mini took four years to update. Yet for the newest machine they didn’t go back to the bigger form factor but but used extreme engineering to try to fit everything into a thin box.

    The problems with convoluted and complex engineering designs is that they are very hard to design (the video mentioned launched date postponed to 2020) and very hard to update. Example : CYLINDER MP design as convoluted, proprietary and very hard , actually impossible to update.

    Apple used to update the internals of the ‘box’ Tower Macs and Mac Pros every couple of years. (the 2010 version discontinued 2013 had a ‘bump’ update in between) .

    What Apple needs for the ‘Headless’ Desktop is to my thinking:

    MINI : a bit bigger like the version two generations ago. With easy to remove RAM and GPU slot (perhaps GPU as a customer option).

    MID TOWER: (like a small Cheese Grater) fast processors, upgradable RAM, two upgradable drives, one or two fast PCI slots (customer option GPU) , TB3/4 , many connectors (USB etc).
    (you can hook up more GPUs etc via TB)

    PRO TOWER: fast multi processors (customer option), upgradable RAM, 4 or more internal drives (like the Cheese Grater), several fast PCI slots (customer option GPUs), TB3/4.

    Make them simple so that Apple can update them on a regular basis. Processor, drive, RAM upgrades 15 months or so, and system upgrades every few years.

    Simple box means manufacturing etc costs lower and they can use the savings to provide a full set of PCI slots etc.

    They could have built the machines I suggested in two years or less vs the 5-7 it’s taking for the new Mac Pro.

    (Note: flamers keep telling me that Apple Management are way smarter than I am, I’m just a ‘user’. But I also complained about the Cylinder Years Ago numerous times (and got flamed roundly I remember) but in the end I and others like minded were right as they abandoned the Cylinder design . so sometimes Apple can be wrong. ).

    1. The real scary thing thinking about it is that maybe Apple chose the design not because of engineering or practicality but because Ive wants them to look like ‘small jewelry cases’ to fit with his and Ahrendts fashionista Apple Store designs. Big boxy Mac Pros just look ugly next to fancy watch bands…

      years back Ive talked about how great the Cylinder Mac Pro ‘looked’. He was so pleased that Apple even built a single Product Red version for an auction. Although the main problem of Cylinder was design which Ive was in charge of he did not attend the MP ‘apology’ meeting two years ago , Federighi (software) and Schiller attended.

      1. Yes, I agree to what you’re alluding to: Johnny Ive is a huge liability, not an asset, when it comes to pro grade Macintosh hardware solutions.

        …and on the trash can, Tim Cook really should have forced Ive to attend and eat crow.

  11. Stupid idea. Proprietary connections including a click toy ripoff is exactly the kind of kluge that creates problems while doing nothing for the user. Apple could save everyone a headache by sticking to industry standards as much as possible. NO soldered sealed underpowered portable stuff on desktops Apple!!!!!!!!!!!

    Apple might as well sell the entire Mac division to Lego if this is the most exciting idea they can come up with to make Macs even less user friendly and repairable.

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