How will Apple’s all-new ‘modular’ Mac Pro (2019) look and work?

“There’s a new Mac Pro coming, hopefully as soon as this year. We could see a preview of it as soon as WWDC 2019 in June. But, a preview of… what exactly? That Apple has even been talking about it before any kind of official introduction is unprecedented, but hints aside, we still have no idea what it will be,” Rene Ritchie writes for iMore. “We do, however, know what we want it to be.”

“The first option, and what many people say they want, is the simple, conservative, safe solution: Just go back to the damn cheese grater already. My Nehalem Mac Pro is probably the best traditional computer I’ve ever owned. It was — and is, since it’s still up and running — a marvel of accessible design. Almost every part could be opened up and swapped out, with not so much as a screwdriver required,” Ritchie writes. “Seriously, it’s one of the most ingenious things they’ve ever made and just updating that concept with modern computing bits would make so many pros so happy.”

There’s a “second option, which I’m guessing far fewer pros would think they want, and is also more complex, radical, and risky a solution,” Ritchie writes. “You get the base, the brain, that houses the CPU and just what it needs to be a functional CPU. And if the socket or even architecture changes over time, you can swap that module out for newer, better brains in the future… Same with GPUs… Same not just with external storage but with external IO modules for external storage that, let’s say when Thunderbolt 3 becomes Thunderbolt 4, you don’t have to wait for Apple to introduce a new machine, or to justify buying a new machine, you can just swap out the module.”

Much more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Of the two possibilities, which would you like? One big box that you add and swap GPUs, storage, etc. into or a bunch of boxes you can stack (or line up or hide or whatever) that you purchase and assemble into the Mac Pro that works best for you?

37 Comments

  1. Why not both options? Apple starts with a beautiful, accessible design that comes with everything you need for a “base” professional model. Great processor, a few excellent options for graphics . . . lots of ports. RAM is easily upgradable, so is storage. Picture the cheese grater Mac Pro but maybe a bit smaller and more “modern” looking. And then, Apple could sell modules that match and stack that can be attached to add capabilities through Thunderbolt 4 like eGPUs and super fast storage solutions that the operating system treats as if they are one and same with the main unit. This would allow expandability that truly is based on need. So I guess I’m saying “option 2” but where “option 1” might be all a lot of pros would ever need. As opposed to an “option 2” where the base “brains” machine isn’t enough for anybody without buying modules.

    1. The flaw with the ‘modular’ concept that’s floating around is that if it is Apple-proprietary, then we’re still 100% reliant on Apple getting around to making updates.

      Whatever the ‘module’-ish interface standard is, it must be 100% open and non-proprietary so that Third Party vendors can compete with each other on innovations that are fast to market and done so at affordable prices. Anything short of that will be another Cube/TrashCan/”Module of Fail”.

    2. The issue with Option 2 is that Apple will change to docking connectors. Mac Pro 2019 TB3 – Mac Pro 2014(???) SuperLightning connector or whatever is in vogue then. Look at the iPhone, a 30 pin connector to a Lighting conector to USB-C(?) next.

  2. Don’t overthink this Apple, the first option is by far a more sensible option. A “Demi-Cheese Grater” would serve most pros just fine.

    2 HD Bays (Multiple HD, Fusion, and SSD options)
    4 – 8 RAM Slots
    2 PCI Bays (multiple GPU options obviously)
    6 USB C/TB (2 on front)
    3 USB 3.0 (1 on front)
    2 Ethernet
    HDMI
    SD slot (one can dream)

    No screwdrivers required please.

    The second option sounds cool, but would, without a doubt, cost more, with little or no gain for the consumer. Any external boxes can be hooked up by TB3 anyways.

    Above all, Apple should remember that this is a desktop class machine, whether or not it sits on your desktop. Issues of size, weight, thinness, and power consumption are completely secondary.

    What would be cool for pros, would be to size the MacPro so that it is easy to slide into a standard 19″ rack, either 2 or 3 rack spaces high. I would love to have my Mac in a rack in my recording setup.

    1. That’s an interesting idea… the idea to offer a 19″ ability for racks… kinda like the Xserve. I like that idea for musicians. I would use one. But like to also have a desktop option for my video/graphic needs too.

      1. Either Apple or a third party should come out with a 19″ rack adapter (probably 3U tall) with the Mac Pro on the left and lots of external disk bays on the right, connected to the MP by TB3.

        1. what will you do when TB4 is released? will you wait 6 years for Apple to support the newer industry standard?

          Apple needs to offer:
          – a couple common legacy ports
          – 4+ of the latest ports
          – PCI slots so users can add more ports now and in the future as they wish.
          – internal drive slots so expansion doesn’t force users to have a snakes nest of cables, none of which today are secured from accidental pullout

          anything less than this is a slap in the face to pros.

          1. anything less than this is a slap in the face to pros.

            Anything less is an additional slap in the fact to pros. Cuz Apple’s been slapping them repeatedly for 6+ years now, to the point a fair number have abandoned the platform entirely.

    2. Amen, amen, amen.

      My first tower was a something called an Amax if I remember right from some local box maker running Win XP so I could do 3D CAD in 1998. The Cheese Grater is just a fancier looking version of a PC Box.

      But, the Cheese Grater can boot Windows & is thus superior to a Biege Box. Case closed.

      As the Cheese Grater show by users here abouts, it has a longer lifespan than the average car. That makes the maker of a device like that have intense customer loyalty. Sure it gets “older” but they get repurposed to less intense tasks and backup solutions.

      Ford understands this better than Apple. The average age a Ford pickup runs on the road is astonishingly high.

      Apple doesn’t realize what Peter Drucker said a long long time ago: Business is all about satisfying the customer.

      Unless Apple is going to go all laptop/iPad all the time, they need an Apple Ford F150. Sure the exterior can change slightly, but the guts can remain the same for a decade.

      1. No criticism, just observations:
        1. The Cheese Grater is just a fancier looking version of a PC Box.” I disagree. The Cheese grater was a marvelous design of simplicity. I worked with a lot of PC boxes, and they were all about sharp sheet metal and lots of threaded fasteners. The Mac Pro could be worked on with nothing more than the fingers on your hands. It was a joy compared to PC boxes. And it was Quiet; no fan drone as found on PCs. It was better in every way.
        2. Peter Drucker: The Mac Pro aside, it not really accurate to say that Apple doesn’t realize that satisfying the customer is important. Of course they do. With Mac Pro (trashcan) It’s obvious they made a number of misguided decisions in their attempt move away from the PC box paradigm. They went all in (with that super-factory they built for Mac Pro) thinking they had a home run. They were wrong, clearly, but I think that with all they had invested in their new design they sat in denial for too long. I truly believe that had to overcome a crisis in confidence, which further delayed dev of the new Mac Pro. The magnitude of the trashcan failure is monumental. I also believe that the iMac Pro was developed with the belief that Pros would love it and forget about the Mac Pro. We know that didn’t happen.

        I would be happy with a downsized Cheese Grater style box. Keep it as simple and affordable as possible.

  3. I am open to ANY new design that is updated at least every 2 years, I prefer every year. Prior to unfocused Pipeline running the show, I would purchase a new MacPro every year. I have over 12 macs running my various companies, and we update many of them often. Since Tim took over, that has been severely neglected. For a company of this size and revenue its completely unacceptable. Also a new display. The MAJOR thing Apple needs to stay focused on is, who is using the Mac Pro. Ask users. In the music field, communicate with companies like Avid and Motu about making sure they support each other. When Apple acts arrogant, with little communication with the ecosystem, we see the failure of the current MacPro’s perception. (and I own 2 of them) Most ‘Pros” can be summed up in 4 categories: music, video, photo and other. For many of them, just having swappable particles of IO would suffice. Upgradable processors, ram and storage. Pretty simple. Bot for some reason, this seems to be difficult for a billion dollar company to figure out. Really sad. I can’t wait for the day Tim Cook is replaced as a CEO.

    1. Yes, because with Tim replaced, the executive team that has been ignoring the Mac will… ahhhh… continue to ignore the Mac.

      That is, unless there’s a web petition that shows them the light.

    2. I dunno,…you think that replacing non-Jobsian vision Pipeline with another likely non-Jobsian vision CEO? There will never be another person with the same authority and charisma that made people listen and obey that Jobs exuded. Maybe Forstall but he’s now committed to the arts.

    3. The thing about yearly is, Mac Pros are gonna use Intel Xeon chips for the foreseeable future. No A series is going to come close to latest high-core count Xeon chips. Intel doesn’t release Xeons annually. A new model come every 18 months to 2 years. Even if Apple gets early access to Intel CPUs I wouldn’t expect a new Pro more than every 24 months based on riding the CPU cycle. If Apple had released a Mac Pro based on Intel Xeon Skylake in mid/late 2017, they would not have released an “updated” Pro in 2018 based on the same chip. The follow up CPU to Skylake is not released yet . So Like HP and DELL and the rest of PC workstation and server manufacturers, Apple is at mercy on Intel’s release cycle.
      Maybe Apple will pull a monster rabbit out of their hat in the form of a super powered A12X that could compete with Xeon. That would be great for the Mac lineup and more regular updates.

  4. Apple just announced an event and it isn’t back to the Mac so hopes are not high for anything from the great pipeline or what ever Tim wants to call it this year.

    1. The Mac is such a small % of Apple’s sales that there is no reason to have more than 2 sentences in the Apple PR show.

      Mac Pro users understand the situation. They don’t want words. They want hard results.

      1. The Mac is such a small % of Apple’s sales that there is no reason to have more than 2 sentences in the Apple PR show.

        And that’s precisely how you tell the company’s been taken over by beancounters.

        A company that’s led properly understands well enough to look at the amount of revenue each product brings in, NOT its percentage compared with all other products.

        i.e. if the Mac units consistently brought in roughly $X every year even as its overall percentage dropped against iOS units, you do not de-prioritize R&D on the Mac units!

  5. Apple has totally lost all credibility in the professional space. To regain it, they must not only introduce a real pro model, but give it a reasonable price, and update it yearly despite the inevitable poor sales.

    And yes the sales will be poor for several years, because people won’t trust Apple not to abandon them again. They did the same thing with the rack-mounted mac before they did it with the pro. (Yes, that was Jobs’s fault.) It will take several years for Apple to heal this self-inflicted wound.

    1. Agreed, but not only must Apple regularly update it, they also have to have the architecture be open enough to support 3rd party Windows PCIe cards so that we don’t have to wait until a Mac-flashed GPU card is maybe somehow made available, etc, etc….

      1. That may be an idea. Get those internal Apple devs to dust off their skills and churn out the software drivers for all the major PCIe cards. They’ve gotten too lazy with only having to support a limited set of possible HW configurations.

        1. Agreed, but I don’t necessarily think that it is all due to “lazy” coders at Apple: its a leadership failure to put it on the objectives list and to provide adequate resources – – consistently over time – – so that Macs being able to plug in any graphics card as soon as it ships becomes the norm.

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