The Mac Pro is Apple’s halo car. It’s a chance for Apple to make the fastest, most powerful computer it can, besting its own past efforts and the efforts of its competitors, year after year. This is Apple’s space program, its moonshot. It’s a venue for new technologies to be explored.
Very good points.
I’m still hoping for the Mac Pro to continue, but it’s also easy to see why Apple would be justified in discontinuing it.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while there hasn’t been a real Mac Pro update since August 2010, Intel didn’t deliver the successor to the 2010 Mac Pro’s CPUs, the Xeon E5 series, in volume until spring 2012, after significant delays.1 It’s only really been one year since Apple could have released new Mac Pros. And architecturally, there isn’t a good way to offer Thunderbolt on Xeon E5 platforms.
Apple may intend to keep the Mac Pro for a long time. Intel’s CPU delays, the lack of a good Thunderbolt implementation, and the relative unimportance of the Mac Pro might have just convinced them to skip the Sandy Bridge-based Xeon E5 generation and wait until the Ivy Bridge-EP chips in Q3 2013 (lining up with Cook’s “later next year”).
Until we get closure on this Mac Pro generation — discontinuation or an update — we won’t know why it’s been stagnating for so long. (Unless someone gets another email from Tim Cook.)
Too many people think that Apple can just release new models whenever they feel like it, and whenever there isn’t an update when they want one, Apple is just withholding it arbitrarily. But there are usually very good reasons, and that reason is often simply waiting for Intel to deliver the next generation of processors for a given Mac family.
The Mac Pro, until this delay, has always been very easy to predict: Apple releases a new one when Intel releases a new generation of Xeon CPUs to put into it, which happens about every 12–18 months, and the schedule is usually published at least a year in advance.
Until there’s a new line of Xeons, it’s not worth updating the Mac Pro. (This greatly annoys gamers, who make fun of the Mac Pro’s video cards when they become relatively ancient midway through each Mac Pro release cycle, but Apple doesn’t need to care because no gamers buy Mac Pros except John Siracusa.)
What makes the current delay unusual (and worrisome) is that, for the first time, there’s a great new Xeon family available and Apple decided to skip it. ↩