It might be time for Apple to put in the towel on the Mac Pro

Zoom in / Apple’s 2019 Mac Pro, a trypophobe’s nightmare.

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The Mac Pro is one of the few remaining Intel Macs without a ready-to-go Apple Silicon replacement, though we’re a little past the two-year deadline CEO Tim Cook originally set for the summer 2020 transition (and, to be fair, we’re It was hard to predict two years ago).

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple continues to work on a new version of the Mac Pro, along with other unreplaced Intel Macs like the high-end Mac mini and 27-inch iMac, but that’s the planned “M2 Extreme” chip that was That would run an Apple Silicon Mac Pro that has been “probably” cancelled.

The Extreme was supposed to string two M2 Ultra chips together, in the same way that the current M1 Ultra has a pair of interconnected M1 Max chips, but as of this writing, Apple is supposedly planning to ship the new Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra chip inside and focus on “portability.” “Easy expansion for additional memory, storage, and other components” to help Mac Pro stand out from current Mac Studio.

Waiting for news in the face of uncertainty is nothing new for Mac Pro companies; It has been consistent for the past decade. It’s been a very long time since a Mac Pro has been updated at anything close to a predictable cadence, especially if you don’t count partial updates like the 2012 Mac Pro tower or the addition of new GPU options to the 2019 model. Both of the last two updates reflected -” Trash” Mac Pro in 2013 and a redesigned “cheese grater” from 2019 – a complete shift in design and strategy.

At this point, I’d like Apple to decide: Either stick to a consistent strategy or vision for the Mac Pro and its place in the lineup, or discontinue it.

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Apple's 2013 Mac Pro still supports some niceties like user-replaceable storage and upgradeable RAM, but it's languished without updates for more than half a decade.  In the end, Apple reversed course on the design, but it was a huge misstep.
Zoom in / Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro still supports some niceties like user-replaceable storage and upgradeable RAM, but it’s languished without updates for more than half a decade. In the end, Apple reversed course on the design, but it was a huge misstep.

The discontinuation of the Mac Pro was unthinkable two decades ago, when the G3 and G4 Power Mac towers were priced, defined, and marketed more like high-end consumer desktops than corporate workstations. But it’s been a long time since that’s been true, and other Macs have stepped in to fill the gap while the Mac Pro has suffered its own identity crisis. Apple’s high-end professional software during this era also died away, and software packages from Premiere to After Effects to Blender to Autodesk Maya are either platform-independent or take advantage of hardware features like Nvidia’s exclusive CUDA API that Apple no longer offers.

Mac Studio is perhaps the single best argument against the continued existence of the Mac Pro. It’s the first truly new Mac design in the Apple Silicon era, and takes full advantage of the performance and power efficiency of the M1 (and hopefully soon, M2) series. It’s small, incredibly powerful, works great, and is relatively quiet, managing to outpace 2019 maxed-out Mac Pro configurations in many workloads for less money.

It’s something that The Verge’s Mac Studio review did a great job of highlighting — staffers who use apps like Premiere, Audition, Photoshop, After Effects, Avid Pro Tools, and Blender had nothing but good things to say about Studio in relation to Intel Macs and Apple hardware. Silicon MacBooks that they’ve been using to run these apps day in and day out. Creating web content isn’t as complex or demanding as creating 3D effects for, say, a big movie or TV show, but there is a large group of creators out there who may be They made use of the Mac Pro a decade or two ago and certainly don’t need to think about it today.

Apple still has its own set of exclusive pro Mac apps, including Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Logic Pro. But the refresh rate of these apps (and the extent of updates, when they come) has slowed and shrunk in the past decade at the same time the Mac Pro has atrophied.

Earlier this year, a group of 112 professional filmmakers signed an open letter asking Apple to improve Final Cut collaboration features, respond more quickly to requests for new features and do a better job of lobbying for the software within the film industry. Even the creators please enter To use it in this context “I still can’t pick it up” because of the real and perceived shortcomings of the app and a general lack of experience and knowledge about the industry-wide app industry. Likewise, the video editors at The Verge didn’t want to “help test Final Cut Pro” because “none of them use it.”

Other Apple devices are successful in part because they run Apple software that gives people things they can’t get from other ecosystems. The opposite is true for professional Mac Pro-style workloads, which run mostly in applications that run as well (and in some cases, better) on cheaper, more flexible Windows and Linux hardware, and this is reflected in the hardware and software used by the actual VFX studios.

A massive 2021 Visual Effects Society panel survey found that Linux and Windows are the most popular platforms for workstations, with Windows somewhat favored in smaller studios and Linux in larger studios.  Mac's share is slim across the board.
Zoom in / A massive 2021 Visual Effects Society panel survey found that Linux and Windows are the most popular platforms for workstations, with Windows somewhat favored in smaller studios and Linux in larger studios. Mac’s share is slim across the board.

Managed by the Visual Effects Society Technology Committee, the 2021 Studio Platform Survey Report surveyed nearly 60,000 workstations across 88 studios of all different sizes; Linux runs on 60 percent of those workstations, Windows runs on 29 percent and macOS is just 11 percent. The survey also found that most studios planned to increase their use of Linux and Windows, while most planned to keep macOS usage at about the same level.

None of this means that Apple should cede this market to Lenovo, Dell, Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and the rest, but Apple needs to be more focused, consistent, and serious than it was with the Mac Pro if it really intends to compete here.

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