Apple offers first look at next-gen Mac Pro at WWDC

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Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:47
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

The new Mac Pro is en route.

And it’s really, really, awesomely black.

Per Macworld, Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller unveiled the company’s upcoming Mac Pro during a “sneak peek” at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday.

The upcoming new desktop workstation features a sleek, cylindrical design that’s a stark contrast to the mammoth, roomy aluminum tower initially introduced with the PowerPC-based Power Mac G5 in 2003, and revised with the release of the Intel-based Mac Pro in 2006. Apple didn’t announce a formal ship date, stating that the new Mac Pro will ship later this year, nor did it talk about pricing or specific models. It will be designed and constructed in the United States.


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The new 9.9-inch tall Mac Pro case is about one-eighth the size of the Mac Pro tower and features a handle for carrying, and a motion sensor lights up to show the I/O ports. The new design, according to Schiller, is based around a “unified thermal core” to help keep the machine cool.

The unit will feature a Xeon E5 processor, which is based on Intel’s Haswell microarchitecture and introduced by the company last April. Configuration with 12-cores will be available, and all Mac Pros will use third-generation PCI Express architecture. Apple is also using 1866MHz ECC DDR3 RAM.

Schiller also went to great lengths to emphasize the new Mac Pro’s graphics performance. The machine will have dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs, and be able to run three 4K displays at one time. Apple says the new Mac Pro’s graphics performance is 2.5 times faster than its predecessor.

The Mac Pro is designed for speed, and Apple is outfitting the machine with PCIe-based flash memory, not traditional SATA hard drives or solid-state drives. Apple touts speeds of 1.25 GBps for reads and 1.0 GBps for writes.

The computer will include the following ports:
- Audio out

- Headphone jack

- Four USB 3 ports

- Six Thunderbolt 2 ports

- Two gigabit Ethernet ports

- HDMI out

- Power

The most remarkable change with the Mac Pro is the elimination of expansion slots. The previous Mac Pro had a pair of 16-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots and a pair of 4-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots. For current owners who have filled their Mac Pro’s slots and still need to use their cards, you’ll have to invest in an external Thunderbolt expansion chassis that will house expansion cards and connect to the new Mac Pro via Thunderbolt.

During the new Mac Pro presentation, there was no visual evidence of an optical drive. With the elimination of the optical drive from the Mac mini, iMac, MacBook Air, and Retina MacBook Pro computers.

Each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six daisy-shained devices. With six Thunderbotl 2 ports, the Mac Pro can support up to 36 Thunderbolt peripherals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel announces improved Thunderbolt with 4K support for next year, could allow for Retina Display functionality on additional Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:24
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, News

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This could lead to some nifty stuff.

On Monday, Intel announced a new version of its Thunderbolt technology that will ship with devices in 2014. The new Thunderbolt technology supports up to 20Gbps throughput, which is up from the 10 Gbps supported by the current version of Thunderbolt.

Per 9to5Mac, the new technology supports 4K resolutions, which could open the door for even higher-resolution Mac displays. Perhaps, this is the technology that Apple needs to work with in order to begin a Retina display rollout for its all-in-one desktop computer, the iMac, or even Mac Pro compatible Thunderbolt displays.

Intel says the technology, which currently goes under the codename Falcon Ridge, will ship next year alongside Intel’s next-generation core processors.

One of the technical reasons for Apple to not release an iMac with a Retina display yet is that the current Thunderbolt processors available could not support the bandwidth needed to push so many pixels. Given Apple’s typical 2x Retina mode scaling, a Retina 27-inch iMac would need to power a resolution of 5120 x 2880 (2 times 2560 x 1440). The new Thunderbolt technology coming in 2014 would essentially double the current tech’s capabilities, making a Retina iMac more plausible.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple offers strong hints of refreshed Mac Pro this spring to French reseller

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Date: Wednesday, February 6th, 2013, 08:47
Category: Mac Pro, News

The Mac Pro you know and love looks like it’s going to get refreshed this year.

More specifically, this spring.

Per French web site Mac4Ever and AppleInsider, an Apple Authorized Reseller in France has revealed that the company plans to release its updated Mac Pro desktop this spring, suggesting the hardware will arrive sooner rather than later.

France Systemes disclosed the details in its latest newsletter.

Apple apparently disclosed the launch window for the new Mac Pro to ease concerns over the fact that the current model will no longer be available in Europe starting March 1. Sales of the Mac Pro desktop will cease in less than a month because of new regulatory requirements in Europe.

In a rare public disclosure about an upcoming product, Apple announced last June that it was planning on updating the Mac Pro in 2013. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook sent an email in which he confirmed his company was “working on something really great.”

Cook’s comments assuaged concerns that Apple could be planning to ax the Mac Pro from its lineup entirely. The high-end professional desktop is largely a niche product for the company, and it hasn’t seen a meaningful upgrade in years.

While Apple has signaled it will update the Mac Pro this year, there’s been no indication as to exactly what the company is planning to do. Some have speculated that a complete redesign of the current tower, the design of which dates back to the company’s Power Mac G5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to stop selling Mac Pro desktop in Europe following March 1st due to regulatory requirements

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Date: Friday, February 1st, 2013, 08:42
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News, retail

Well, this is a bit awkward.

Per MacRumors, sales of Apple’s Mac Pro desktop will stop in Europe on March 1 because of new regulatory requirements in the region.

Apple announced that sales will halt in a month in a letter the company sent to resellers on Thursday. The company cited Amendment 1 of Regulation IEC 60950-1, but did not explain what in particular about the Mac Pro desktop is in violation.

Halting sales of the Mac Pro won’t have much of an effect on Apple’s bottom line, as the high-end professional desktop is largely a niche product for the company.

In fact, it’s possible that the situation may have no effect at all on customers in Europe, as Apple has already revealed it’s planning to update the Mac Pro this year. It’s possible that Apple could update its aging desktop — and subsequently comply with European regulations — before sales are halted.

However, no timetable has been given for the Mac Pro update, with Apple only indicating that it will arrive sometime this year. Even analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who detailed Apple’s planned product roadmap earlier this month, offered no indication as to when the new Mac Pro may arrive.

Apple’s full letter provided to resellers on Thursday is included below:

As of March 1, 2013, Apple will no longer sell Mac Pro in EU, EU candidate and EFTA countries because these systems are not compliant with Amendment 1 of regulation IEC 60950-1, Second Edition which becomes effective on this date. Apple resellers can continue to sell any remaining inventory of Mac Pro after March 1.

Apple will take final orders for Mac Pro from resellers up until February 18th for shipment before March 1, 2013.

Countries outside of the EU are not impacted and Mac Pro will continue to be available in those areas.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases first OS X 10.8.3 beta, inclusion of AMD Radeon 7000 drivers hints at next-gen Mac Pro

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Date: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, 07:31
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News, Software

This could turn into something really interesting.

Per Netkas.org, Apple’s first beta of OS X 10.8.3 has quietly added support for the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series of graphics cards, hinting that they could be featured in the company’s designed Mac Pro desktop.

Support for the AMD Radeon HD 7XXX series was discovered by Netkas.org this week, following the launch of the first beta of OS X 10.8.3. Specifically, the Mac operating system supports the Radeon HD 7900 series, codenamed “Tahiti,” which includes the Radeon HD 7970 and 7950.

Both of those cards feature 3 gigabytes of GDDR5 memory, and are based on a 28-nanometer chip manufacturing process. The cards are the first products to feature AMD’s “Graphics Core Next” compute architecture.

Support for the dedicated desktop graphics card series could signal that AMD’s latest GPUs may be headed for an updated Mac Pro. Apple’s lone tower computer was quietly updated in June with a modest speed bump featuring a two-year-old Intel Xeon E5645 chip.

After users expressed frustration over that update, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook quickly confirmed that his company was working on an overhaul of the Mac Pro. He indicated that the updated desktop would be released sometime in 2013.

“Don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for next year,” Cook said to a customer in an e-mail.

Signs of a sixth-generation Mac Pro appeared in internal configuration files found in the Mountain Lion operating system earlier this year. The “MP60″ is expected to be a significant overhaul of the current Mac Pro model, which has had the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion resource files hint at possible next-gen iMac, Mac Pro models without optical drives

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Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, Rumor

It’s the internal files that hint at the upcoming cool stuff.

Per AppleInsider, internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple’s iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by a source close to the story, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the “MM50″ (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the “Mid 2011 Mac mini”, which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven’t been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn’t changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the “Mac Pro 5,1″ just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple’s conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple’s Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, “Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s [WWDC] event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.”

Cook’s choice of the words “working on something really great,” indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple’s notebook designs, it’s likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

Apple’s current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it’s overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as “iMac 13,2″ has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn’t definitively mean the models won’t have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple’s App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft’s ill fated HD-DVD or Sony’s Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple’s newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple quietly updates Mac Pro, adds modest speed boost

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Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012, 10:39
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

This sort of slipped in under the wire.

Albeit it wasn’t officially announced at WWDC, the Mac Pro was updated via the Apple Store on Monday with a modest speed boost.

The standard-configuration 12-core Mac Pro features two 2.4 gigahertz 6-core Intel Xeon E5645 processors and 12 megabytes of fully shared L3 cache per processor. The 12-core model starts at US$3,799 with 12 gigabytes of memory, a 1-terabyte hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 memory.

The quad-core Mac Pro features one 3.2 gigahertz quad-core Intel Xeon processor and 6 gigabytes of memory. It also features a 1-terabyte hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 for US$2,499.

A Mac Pro server configuration is also available, featuring one 3.2 gigahertz quad-core Intel Xeon processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM standard. For US$2,999 it features two 1-terabyte hard drives, the ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 RAM, and it comes installed with OS X Lion Server.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Xeon E5 chip was actually found to be a two-year-old Westmere-EP chip.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen Mac Pro units to feature Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and 8-core Xeon X5 CPUs

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Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 07:20
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, Rumor

This could be snazzy.

Per MIC Gadget, Apple’s anticipated Mac Pro update will feature Intel Xeon E5 series processors with either six or eight cores, as well as native support for USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.

The new Mac Pro desktop tower has been given a codename of K5B according to the report. It will also reportedly feature 1600MHz memory with 8 channels, SATA III/SAS 6-gigabyte-per-second drive connectivity, and PCI-Express 3 native support for video cards.

Intel’s new Xeon E5 workstation-class chips first hit the market in early March. They are based on the Sandy Bridge micro-architecture that first found its way into the remainder of Apple’s Mac lineup last year.

This year, Apple’s MacBook Pros, MacBooks Airs, iMacs and Mac minis are expected to be upgraded to Intel’s latest-generation Ivy Bridge processors. But the Mac Pro won’t be getting Ivy Bridge processors with this update because those chips “handle voltage far worse than their 32nm Sandy Bridge brethren,” according to the report.

The new SATA III/SAS native connectivity is expected to be a major boost for speedy solid-state drives, while native PCI-Express 3 support with 40 lanes per socket will enhance RAID arrays and video cards. The onboard memory controller has also reportedly been moved to the CPU itself, which will allegedly result in a “massive leap” in performance.

And along with standard USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt support, memory is said to be likely to see an upgrade to 1600MHz, an improvement from the 1333MHz memory in Apple’s previous-generation Mac Pros. The new desktops are also expected to have 8 physical memory lanes, allowing for 25 percent more memory.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“We Want a New Mac Pro” group page gaining traction/support

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Date: Friday, May 25th, 2012, 05:00
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

Apple’s Mac Pro line really hasn’t been updated in a while.

Which is growing disconcerting to some users.

Per AppleInsider, a group of users has begun a “We Want a New Macpro” group page on the social networking site had garnered over 4,000 likes as of late Thursday and a number of comments from group members calling for either a Mac Pro update or concrete information from Apple about its plans for the high-end machine.

According to the page, the petition was started by Lou Borella, a self-described “professional editor and graphic animator” in the New York City area, earlier in May.

On May 9, Borella posted an open letter to Apple asking for “a little clarity” about the Mac Pro.

“Its been neglected for far too long. We realize all the success of the iPad and iPhone and we’re really happy with our new toys,” he wrote. “But unfortunately many of us need to make decisions on hardware for professional uses that allow us to make a living.”

The letter went on to say that professional software applications, such as Adobe Creative Suite 6, AVID, Pro Tools and Smoke, require “the most powerful hardware available.” In addition, creative professionals need configurable systems for their business.

“The iMac is not the answer for these situations,” he said.

Borella is seeking for a “timeframe” for a new Mac Pro update or official confirmation as to whether the line is “dead.”

“It’s not too much to ask. We cannot wait any longer and it’s really not fair to string us along like this,” Borella concluded, also signing the letter on behalf of the “Creative Community.”

According to an informal poll posted to the page last week, 267 people are willing to wait until “shortly after” the Worldwide Developers Conference in mid-June, while 47 people said they would wait until the end of this year. 143 respondents said they would wait until the Mac Pro was “officially discontinued” before taking the next step.

A second poll found that 197 people are willing to wait because their “current computer still works fine.” 131 others said they would build a “Hackintosh,” a custom-built computer running an unauthorized copy of OS X. Finally, 47 people said they would switch back to Microsoft Windows.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on both the petition and its plans for the Mac Pro.

Apple’s neglect of the Mac Pro was especially felt last year as all of the other Mac models received upgrades adding Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge processors. Some have even suggested that Thunderbolt is Apple’s alternative to high-end workstations.

The Mac Pro’s important to Apple’s bottom line has diminished as the company’s profits have increasingly skewed toward mobile devices and the iPhone has come to account for the bulk of its revenue. Apple sold 1.2 million desktops in the second quarter of fiscal 2012, compared to 2.82 million notebooks during the period. Mac revenue for the quarter amounted to US$5.1 billion, much less than the US$22.7 billion in revenue from the iPhone and related products.

Though Apple has in the past been known as a niche hardware and software maker catering to creative professionals, the company has shown a willingness to adapt to better serve its mainstream customers. For instance, it announced plans to discontinue its Xserve server in 2010. Though the company redirected customers to its Mac Pro as a Mac-based server alternative, it has curiously not updated the Mac Pro since July 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may include Intel Sandy Bridge processors in near-term Mac Pro update

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Date: Friday, March 2nd, 2012, 07:27
Category: Mac Pro, Processors, Rumor

Even if you’re hankering for a new iPad 3 or an updated MacBook Air, there’s always your Mac Pro tower to keep in mind.

Per The Inquirer, Intel’s new Sandy Bridge update for its Xeon line of high end CPUs is due next week, suggesting the potential for Apple to refresh the Mac Pro, which hasn’t changed since the middle of 2010.

The new Xeon E5 chips incorporate the Sandy Bridge micro architecture that first appeared in MacBook Pros and iMacs early last year, followed by a mobile variant used by Apple in the MacBook Air last summer.

Apple’s latest Mac Pro models currently use Intel Xeon Bloomfield or Gulftown processors based on the Nehalem and closely related Westmere microarchitectures.

The latest release of OS X 10.7.3 Lion included support for AMD’s high end Tahiti graphic cards, which are expected to arrive in the market around the same time as Intel’s new Xeon chips.

However, sources famliar with the matter have said that Apple’s management, as far back as last May, were in limbo over whether to put any additional resources toward the Mac Pro product line.

Internal discussions at Apple were said to focus on the fact that sales of the high-end Mac Pro workstations have dropped off so considerably that the desktop machines are no longer particularly profitable for the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.