2018 Mac Pro
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Confirmed in April by Apple itself, the 2018 Mac Pro will be a major refresh of the product line, offering high processing performance to the professional market. It is likely to be a major departure from the 2013 Mac Pro, with Apple promising the new system to be modular, potentially making it easier to upgrade.
● High-specification components
● "Pro" monitor
● Modular design
● Xeon processors
● Touch-enabled display
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Apple will be bringing out an all-new Mac Pro in 2018, the company confirmed in an interview in April, responding to concerns from professional users that Apple was abandoning the pro market. The last time the Mac Pro line underwent a revamp was in 2013, the introduction of the cylindrical chassis, with Apple promising the next model will bring with it more changes to the system's construction.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller told assembled journalists the company is "completely rethinking the Mac Pro. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so we can keep it fresh with regular improvements. And we're committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro users."
While there is a long time to wait before Apple ships the 2018 Mac Pro, the company is already giving customers who can't wait for the new design an earlier option, by updating the 2013 model with new stock configuration options.
Later in 2017, Apple will also be giving professional users an alternative option to getting a Mac Pro. High-specification versions of the iMac will be arriving this year, providing more processing power than the current models, while maintaining the slim all-in-one design.
During an earnings conference call in May, Apple CEO Tim Cook told listeners "Our Mac business has generated over $25 billion in revenue over the past four quarters. We're investing aggressively in its future and we are very excited about the innovation we can bring to the platform."
Though not directly mentioning the next generation of Mac Pro, it is likely this investment retoric is a reference to Apple's work on the product line.
One of the few details to come out of the April interview is that the 2018 Mac Pro will have a modular design, making it easier for users to change components depending on their needs, and for Apple to introduce new hardware to the product line. As to how "modular" the Mac Pro will be, it remains to be seen.
One of the reasons for the change from the design of the current-generation Mac Pro was revealed by Apple software chief Craig Federighi as thermal issues. The company had backed itself into a "thermal corner" with the cylindrical 2013 Mac Pro, with the components combined with the triangular internal design not quite matching the needs of its potential users.
"We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture," said Federighi. "That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn't materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped."
By switching to a more modular design, it could allow for a greater variety of options for pro users to select from when constructing their Mac Pro, possibly including the option to reduce the number of GPUs down to one, if that is what the user requires.
As part of the interview confirming the Mac Pro update, Apple advised it was working on a new "pro display" to go with the computer. The announcement goes against rumors that Apple was exiting the stand-alone monitor business entirely, following the discontinuation of its Thunderbolt display.
It is possible that Apple will partner with a third-party vendor to offer the pro display, based on the launch of high-resolution USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 displays from LG Display. The UltraFine 5K display notably did ship with a hardware flaw that caused picture and connection issues when placed near wireless devices, an issue the two companies have been quick to rectify.
Despite the launch issues, and the potential alienation of some end users from aquiring similar displays in the future, it is possible the partnership could continue, ending up with a new display meant for the upcoming Mac Pro.
Potential Hardware Specifications
Due to the long time period before Apple unveils the 2018 Mac Pro, there are yet to be any strong rumors about what the internal components will be. Despite this, there are some options Apple may be considering.
It is likely Apple will continue to use an Intel processor in the Mac Pro, continuing from its existing usage of Xeon CPUs in the current models. Rumors have suggested the "pro" iMac due in the second half of 2017 will use the Xeon E3-1285 processor, but considering it is a quad-core chip and that current Mac Pro models start with six core versions, it is probable the 2018 Mac Pro will use something more powerful with more cores.
Depending on the modular nature of the 2018 Mac Pro, it is possible that Apple could allow for users to change the graphics cards easily, among other components.
In April, Nvidia released beta Mac drivers for its Pascal-based video cards, including the 10 series and the Titan Xp. Currently, only users with a pre-2013 Mac Pro with a free PCI-e slot, or an external graphics enclosure, will be able to use the drivers, but this could change with next year's Mac Pro.
For the moment, all Apple has confirmed is that the Mac Pro will be coming out in 2018, but not when in the year it will ship.
In the April interview, Phil Schiller advised that the internal development team has been told to take whatever time is needed to make a truly great Mac Pro. "One of the good things, hopefully, with Apple through the years has been a willingness to say when something isn't quite what we wanted it to be, didn't live up to expectations, to not be afraid to admit it and look for the next answer," said Schiller.
In late April, Apple had updated its trademark in Hong Kong for the Mac Pro, adding in a number of extra terms the mark applies to. Terms including "wireless communication devices" and "home theatre systems" were included on the list, terms which already exist for the Mac mini and iMac trademarks in the country.
Notably, the list also includes "augmented reality displays, googles, controllers, and headsets; 3D spectacles." This may be a sign Apple is anticipating some application of AR technology with the new device, though it is not a guarantee that Apple will do so in the future.