It’s been almost a year since Apple stealth-announced a barely-there update to its line-up of Mac Pro workstations at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), frustrating users who still rely on tower-style desktop workstations — with lots of room for graphics horsepower and other expansion cards under the hood — for performance computing tasks. But the buzz in Mac circles is that there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel. NAB came and went, but the WWDC begins again next week, and rumor has it that we may finally hear about the new Mac Pro — or whatever’s going to replace it. Mum is, of course, the word from Mac HQ. But with Apple news and gossip sites working overtime, we can still speculate. Here are the questions being asked, with a look at the best answers that can be gleaned at this point.
Maybe! Apple CEO Tim Cook promised "something really great" in this category would be released in 2013 and, as recently as NAB, Apple was reaffirming that promise, albeit with no further comment about when or what we were going to get. MacTrast reports that leading Apple retailers are reporting low or no stock levels on entry-level Mac Pros. Given that Apple tends to keep retail well-stocked, this is usually taken as a sign that a product is about to be refreshed (or discontinued). Meanwhile, the current Mac Pros can no longer be sold in Europe because of new safety regulations related to electrical ports and fan guards. WWDC is a software event, of course, but software developers need development machines, so this would be an excellent time for Apple to update its pro workstations.
Will the new Mac Pro look like the old Mac Pro?
Doubtful. If you’ve ever tried to lug your Mac Pro up a flight of stairs, you know it’s a pretty heavy machine. Facilities and other pro users tend not to mind that so much, since the machine will spend its life chained to a desk. But Apple is emphasizing portability across all of its lines — remember, this is the company that unceremoniously killed the 17-inch MacBook Pro, beloved by video editors, as if it were just another popular character on Game of Thrones — so it seems likely that the Mac Pro will be slimmed down. It’s possible we’ll see a much smaller desktop unit that relies on a separate (Apple-branded?) Thunderbolt expansion chassis for connecting bulkier PCIe-based hardware.
What else might be different?
Who knows? Speculation across the net is that the machine will support dual-GPU processing out of the box, and MacNN.com reported that OS X 10.8.4 includes drivers for Nvidia's Geforce GTX Titan card, which ZDNet notes could suggest interesting multi-GPU options for a Mac Pro. Apple would be nuts to release a new machine without USB 3.0 as well as Thunderbolt, but FireWire 800 and CD-ROM may leave the picture. (You'd be able to connect your existing devices using a Thunderbolt adapter, though.) And there’s some talk that the machine may incorporate some flavor of fast solid-state memory rather than a spinning disk, which would certainly improve boot speed. The We Want a New Macpro Facebook page has a good round-up of what seems to be on the table.
If the Mac Pro 2013 is announced at WWDC, when can I get one?
We’d be surprised to hear that new Mac Pros are ready to ship next week, and the preponderance of rumors are saying that the new machines will ship this fall — possibly in order to sync their release with the availability of new Intel Ivy Bridge E processors, which are thought to be due in September. That means Apple could decide not to talk about them at all next week. But the more dramatic the changes, the farther out Apple might be willing to make a “coming-soon” announcement.
What are you hoping for from the new Mac Pro? And how do you feel about the rumors coming out of Cupertino? Let us know in the comments.
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