Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Is Working on a New Mac Pro, iMac, and External Display

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller is talking to a small group of reporters in a white stucco building near its headquarters in Cupertino. The purpose of the discussion, while somewhat unclear initially, reveals itself a few minutes in.

The news, if you want it straight: Apple is acknowledging that the Mac Pro they introduced in 2013 has run aground on the cleverness of its own design, and they’re re-thinking the entire machine. In addition, they’ll be releasing a new external display — something it had previously opted out of.

But none of that is coming this year. Today, we’ll see a performance bump on the old design of Mac Pro, which will remain on sale for now. And later this year we’ll see improved iMacs that Apple feels will appeal to a segment of Pro users as well.

John Gruber also attended this briefing, and wrote a little about the obvious irregularity of Apple spilling their own product plans:

I think it was simply untenable for Apple to continue to remain silent on the Mac Pro front. No matter how disappointing you consider today’s speed bump updates to the lineup, they’re certainly better than no updates at all. But there was no way Apple could release today’s speed bumps without acknowledging that in and of themselves, these updates do not suggest that Apple is committed to the Mac Pro. In fact, if they had released these speed bumps without any comment about the future of the Mac Pro, people would have reasonably concluded that Apple had lost its goddamned mind.

Ina Fried of Axios was also there:

The company has no plans for touchscreen Macs, or for machines powered solely by the kind of ARM processors used in the iPhone and iPad. However, executives left open the possibility ARM chips could play a broader role as companion processors, something that showed up first with the T1 processor that powers the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pro.

This is not necessarily what Apple’s pro customers wanted to hear today, but it is what they — we — needed to hear: an acknowledgement that such a tiny fraction of Apple’s sales are important to the company, and that they’re working on something that will address that. I, of course, have many questions that cannot be answered yet, and I’m okay with that. But on the timing of Apple’s realization that the architecture of the current Mac Pro isn’t capable of keeping up with upgrades, Panzarino quotes these responses:

“I wish I could give you the kind of answer you want with that, which is, ‘oh, there was a day and a meeting and we all got together and said X,’” says Schiller, “but it rarely works that way.”

“We all went on our own emotional journeys, I’d say,” laughs Federighi. “There were periods of denial and acceptance. We all went on that arc.”

I’m not surprised that it has taken this long to even get a whiff of an updated Mac Pro to suit the needs of all of their customers. But why would the development of an all-new Mac Pro preclude them from doing today’s spec bump update a year or two ago? I think that users’ concerns would have been assuaged by even slightly more regular updates.

But here we are, at long last: within sight of a new iMac, and with the knowledge that pro customers are not forgotten. This briefing does a lot, I think, to restore trust in the Mac leg of Apple’s ecosystem stool.

The news of a new display is some pretty fantastic icing on the cake, as far as I’m concerned. I expected that Apple had left the display business behind; their partnership with LG seemed to confirm that.1 After the fiasco with the 5K displays, I couldn’t be happier to read that external displays are still in Apple’s plans.

So: a new Mac Pro, a new display, and an updated iMac. The latter will be out this year, while the other products won’t be — Apple provided no guidance on when to expect them. That might not be stellar news, but it’s open and communicative, and that’s what a lot of us want to hear: an assurance that the Mac is still integral to Apple’s strategy, and that higher-end desktop customers are still important to them.

Update: One thing I didn’t see mentioned, unsurprisingly, is a commitment to regular Mac Pro updates. By the vague descriptions of the machine communicated to this roundtable of journalists, it should allow more frequent updates, but whenever this thing is introduced, I would love to hear and see a commitment to that.

A Mac is like a box of packaged tea: its expiration date might be far into the future on any shelf, but you wouldn’t buy it if you thought it had been made three years ago and was left to sit around.


  1. Over the past several years, I kept hearing hints about a brand new display being developed inside Apple. But, after the LG 5K display was announced as something of a partnership, I assumed that whatever was being developed had either always been destined for the LG display, or assisted LG after Apple had a change of heart. ↩︎