Apple -normally a black legend for being close about new developments – have finally announced a replacement for the MacPro Tower and confirmed it will start to sell its new Pro workstation from December 2013.
That is a high priced market that continues to attract a certain customer and carries high margins. Over a third of the cost of a Pro Workstation can go on its GPU’s (graphics processors) – add-in boards from Nvidia and ATI. Professionals need to add memory – 16Gb, 24Gb 32Gb even 64Gb – and high-speed storage.
It’s not just graphic artists who need that power: Architects , Engineers and Designers with CAD requirements and computer aided manufacturing, but also Medical and Pharmaceutical research, and increasingly, data visualisation and analytics. Although some of this work is moving to servers or even the cloud, there is still a need for raw power next to the desk.
But then Apple is not content to build a big-box workstation like those from Dell, Lenovo or HP. Instead, it has opted for a cylinder-type design, cooled via a central duct. It only comes with solid-state storage, and has no internal expansion slots. Instead, Apple is promoting a new, fibre-based Thunderbolt 2 interface (the new Mac has six of these ports). Built-in, the computer comes with two graphics cards.
Despite its design, though, the new Mac Pro is more expandable than other Apple machines, such as the iMac, would suggest. According to MacUser, the SSD units can be swapped out, and the GPUs replaced – although an upgrade would have to be to another, Apple-specific card.
Companies such as Sonnet have announced Thunderbolt 2 chassis for PCI-e cards. This may add to desktop clutter for high-end users, but it keeps the computer smaller and cooler for everyone else.
How well this quirky computer, with an entry-level price tag of just over £2000, will sell remains to be seen. But Apple may well be right to design a niche machine for a niche market. The general business PC is a rapidly declining market, and Apple was one of the earliest companies to spot the trend towards portables, laptops and tablets.
It may well be the new Mac Pro is the last for a long time anyway. By the time this model reaches the end of its lifecycle, even high end computing could be on portables. Surely it can’t all go to the cloud?
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