New Mac Pro? Don't hold your breath

Back in April, Apple promised to "completely rethink the Mac Pro" and "come out with something great to replace it." And now it has. But it's not a new Mac Pro.

Don't hold your breath for a new Mac Pro

Back in April, Apple promised to "completely rethink the Mac Pro" and "come out with something great to replace it."

That something great is quite likely the iMac Pro.

See also: WWDC 2017: I miss Steve Jobs and his 'Reality Distortion Field'

OK, OK, I know what some of you are screaming. "Don't you remember that emergency damage limitation meeting that Apple had in April? They promised a new Mac Pro!"

Well, if you're a person that doesn't read beyond the headlines, I can see why you might think this, but if you read what the journalists at the meeting wrote -- like I did -- then you'll know better.

There were five journalists at the event -- Ina Fried, John Gruber, John Paczkowski, Matthew Panzarino, and Lance Ulanoff -- and between them they did a great job of documenting the proceedings. Digesting these, the following quotes stand out:

"We designed ourselves into a bit of a corner." -- Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of software engineering

"We are in the process of what we call 'completely rethinking' the Mac Pro." -- Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing

"We made something bold that we thought would be great ... and what we discovered is that it was great for some and not others -- enough so, that we realized we had to take another path ... and look for the next answer." -- Schiller

"The current Mac Pro ... was constrained thermally and it restricted our ability to upgrade it. And for that, we're sorry to disappoint customers." -- Schiller

In his piece on TechCrunch, Panzarino himself pointed out something interesting:

"iMacs are being used disproportionately by pro users in recent years. Whether that's due to the pace of updates or to the increased capability and much wider spread of the definition of 'pro' is in the air. Likely a combination of both."

Now, in the interests of being totally transparent, there was one quote that did suggest a new Mac Pro.

"As part of doing a new Mac Pro -- it is, by definition, a modular system -- we will be doing a Pro display as well." -- Schiller

Does the iMac fall into the idea of "modular"? Not in true sense, but Thunderbolt does allow for more displays and peripherals to be hooked up, making it modular in a broader sense.

There was a lot said about thermal capacity of the Mac Pro, which is interesting and rung a bell when so much was made of the cooling system in the iMac Pro:

"I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system that we thought with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture ... that that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn't materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped." -- Federighi

"Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate. And so it became fairly difficult to adjust. At the same time, so many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by Mac Pro through a next generation iMac ... And really put a lot of our energy behind that. [But,] while that [upgraded iMac] system is going to be fantastic for a huge number of customers -- we want to do more." -- Federighi

There was also this in relation to timing:

"You won't see any of these products this year." -- Schiller.

Does December, which is when the iMac Pro launches, count as "this year"?

In the defense of people who only read headlines, many headlines did proclaim that a new Mac Pro was coming. But when you read what Apple executives actually said, that might have been a gross oversimplification.

Now those of you who want to believe that a new Mac Pro is still in the pipeline, riddle me this:

  • Just how big is the "pro" Mac space?
  • Is the market big enough to support two "pro" Mac lines?
  • What will differentiate the iMac Pro from the Mac Pro? Just the display? Or do you have some different workload in mind?
  • When's it going to be announced? Unlikely before the end of the year (which rules out the iPhone event, because it would likely confuse buyers), so when? WWDC 2018?

Bottom line, I wouldn't be holding my breath for a new Mac Pro.