The Night Owl Continues to Set the Stage for New Mac Speculation

April 6th, 2017

In recent months, I’ve suggested that Apple ought to consider a professional version of the iMac, a model offering higher-end parts to better satisfy the needs of Mac creatives. At first, there wasn’t much response, until Apple called several journalists to their Cupertino, CA campus for a roundtable. During that session, they promised that an iMac with professional options would become available some time this year.

Based on previous iMac timetables, that would likely mean October.

Now there’s a published report, in Pike’s Universum, which lists the possible configurations for this souped up iMac. Now before I continue, it’s fascinating to realize that the original iMac from 1998 was a consumer computer sporting a CRT with other parts largely borrowed from PowerBooks. Over the years the iMac became a more powerful entrant in the Mac lineup, and, in 2009, it became a viable alternative to the Mac Pro.

Today’s 27-inch iMac features a 5K Retina display, something that’s a rare commodity, at a price that’s not any different from the previous models without the high-resolution monitor. In benchmarks, the top-of-the-line iMac configurations can best a Mac Pro until more than four cores are needed by an app.

Now I suppose one could design this iMac Pro without the help of a “little bird,” which is who that blog identifies as its source. But it’s mentioning an option with a quad-core Intel E3-1285 v6 processor, something that has yet to ship, support for 64GB ECC memory, speedier SSDs, AMD graphics capable of supporting VR, and the expected USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. A “brand new keyboard” is mentioned, which is in line with my previous discussions of a potential Magic Keyboard 2 with Touch Bar. Whether the keyboard could exist as a standalone product or require support from a specific Mac isn’t known.

It’s not as if the beefed up hardware could necessarily be swapped into the existing design. It might make additional demands to the iMac’s thermal system, requiring some reworking and enhancements to its cooling capability.

Now if this comes to pass, a fully configured iMac might cost upwards of $5,000. The other question is whether  6-core, 8-core or even 12-core Xeons will be supported. Aside from the obvious lack of internal expandability, other than RAM, we’re talking about the potential for an all-in-one variant of the Mac Pro. It wouldn’t eliminate the need for the latter, which may bring back support for adding extra stuff inside, such as drives and expansion cards, but it would take the iMac up a couple of notches in terms of raw power.

There are a few more things in that article, one of which is not inconsistent with my suggestions about the next Mac mini. In yesterday’s column, I cited the HP Z2 Mini as a competitor that can be customized to serve as a compact CAD workstation. Apple made a point of saying that the Mac mini has some pro users, so I’m not surprised at the suggestion in that blog that there might be a version that’s physically larger than the current model? A Mac Pro mini?

The forthcoming display may also support 8K, which would make it suitable for high-end movie editing. Yes, 8K. The forthcoming comic book film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was reportedly shot with the RED WEAPON 8K digital camera. In case you’re aching for one, they start at $49,500. This would also mean that the Mac Pro would be equipped with graphic cards that can handle several 8K displays. Stands to reason.

It’s possible 8K support is what would separate an iMac, even with professional parts, from the Mac Pro. But what about an 8K iMac? Maybe next year.

The big question is when the new version of Apple’s pro workstation will arrive. When Apple executives said it wouldn’t be this year, the assumption was that it would arrive some time in 2018.

But there’s also a published report that the green light for the new Mac Pro was only given recently, and it may not arrive until 2019, though that might be a little much for Mac power users. Obviously, it’s too early to know, but I suspect Apple would want to have one to demonstrate at the 2018 WWDC, for release that fall, or maybe even right away.

Is it true that it took more than three years for Apple to realize that the trash can Mac Pro took the product in the wrong direction? That published report claims that the negative reaction, particularly by Mac pros, to the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and the faulty launch of the LG UltraFine 5K display, served as the final wakeup call for Apple. On the other hand, the new Mac notebook is supposed to be a big success, helping to drive Mac sales to a slight increase in the December quarter.

Right now, however, it’s all about unconfirmed rumors. The actual specs for the new gear won’t be known until they’re much closer to the actual release dates. However, I find it fascinating to see how closely some of my speculation, made without the use of any outside sources, may end up to be very much in the ball park.

| Print This Article Print This Article

One Response to “The Night Owl Continues to Set the Stage for New Mac Speculation”

  1. dfs says:

    It ought to come as no surprise that Apple is showing renewed interest in the MacPro. The number of people who require this computer may be very limited, and producing a new version to their liking may well turn out to be a money-losing proposition. But consider who these people are. In large part these are the designers of the future media to be heard and seen the consumer-grade Macs of the future, so Apple has an urgent need for these people and their products. The way such computers have always been sold is by the appearance of software and media that arouse consumer interest but require greater speed and computing power than the devices they already own. This is the cycle that drives sales: to make me want to buy a new computer or mobile device you need to figure out ways to make me dissatisfied with the one I’ve got. In this effort, the sort of people who need the MacPro play a key role. So it would be a monumental case of self-foot-shoot if Apple were to turn its back on them.

Leave Your Comment