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Apple's comments on future Mac Pro hint at possible virtual reality support in macOS

Apple famously does not sell a Mac powerful enough to support Oculus Rift virtual reality, but that could change with a new Mac Pro update scheduled to arrive at some point next year.




In preannouncing the next Mac Pro, set to arrive no sooner than 2018, Apple software chief Craig Federighi was asked about what types of customers would require a more powerful graphics processor in a revamped desktop. In comments to TechCrunch, Federighi cited VR as an application where the current cylindrical Mac Pro is not meeting some professional user needs.

Specifically, Federighi said that VR is a type of "heavy 3D graphics" application where more powerful GPUs are needed than the current Mac Pro design can accommodate.

Apple's devices favor portability over power, which is why popular VR platforms like Facebook's Oculus Rift simply do not work on the Mac. Without necessary hardware to drive smooth VR experiences, companies see little benefit in developing the accompanying software for macOS.

Executives at Oculus have repeatedly said they have no intention to bring support for their headset to macOS anytime soon.

However, it's possible that attitude could change if a new Mac Pro with adequate horsepower and sales drives interest. Another potential platform that could support macOS is the HTC Vive, a device developed in partnership with Valve, whose Steam storefront and Steam Controller are available for macOS.

While a new Mac Pro could provide the horsepower necessary for advanced VR applications, it's unlikely that Apple itself would invest in such technology for a niche market. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has praised virtual reality, but also said he believes there is more interest in augmented reality—an interest expected to bear fruit later this year with facial recognition capabilities in a rumored "iPhone 8."