The current Mac Pro is a powerful work-horse of a computer, beautifully designed for quick and easy expandability. However good the design is though, it is almost 8 years old – the form-factor was originally introduced way back in 2003 as the PowerMac G5, and I for one hope that with all indicators pointing to a refresh in the not too distant future, that Apple are gearing up to launch the next generation of Pro Mac Desktops.
So what would I like to see? For starters there are too many times I’ll be sitting typing away on my MacBook Pro whilst the 8-core under the desk in the corner of the Studio is number-crunching, and it’ll sound like it’s cleared for take off! Granted, I think I might miss the whine from the cooling fans and the low frequency drone that seems to emanate from the tower every time Compressor starts batch processing and it’s firing on all cylinders.
Secondly, do we really need easy-access expandability? I suspect that 9 times out of 10, most Pro’s never get opened after the initial “ooh, aah” ogling when first taken out the wrapper… Yes, the Mac Pro in the Studio has a BlackMagic Decklink HD capture card installed, along with 4x 750Gb hard drives and 20Gb RAM, but it’s never been touched following initial installation.
With the advent of Thunderbolt technology, us Mac users can – quite literally – now think “outside the box” and hook up external RAID storage and I/O devices, all of which will be connected at super-fast bus speeds previously only available inside the tower. Manufacturers of video capture cards and high-performance external storage devices are already on-board with Thunderbolt, so isn’t this the perfect time to bring some of Apple’s iDevice “walled garden” ethos to their desktop line too?
Since the exquisitely designed angle-poise iMac G4, my personal computer has always been an iMac, and having progressed through G5 and Intel Core 2 Duo models I see nothing wrong with the “all-in-one” approach. Apple afforded me a small but perfectly formed hatch so that I might upgrade the RAM, which I duly did. Then when I started to feel my heavy-weight design applications dragging their feet, I was well into the next product cycle and simply upgraded the whole machine, benefitting not only from a faster processor but also faster internal architecture, connectivity, efficiency and a bigger, better screen too.
Of course, having to replace that screen every time isn’t ideal, and what’s been missing from Apple’s line-up for some time is a powerful, headless iMac – a Mini Pro if you like. The Mac Mini is a fantastic product, but ultimately falls short on horsepower when it comes to professional production. The Mac Pro though impressive, could be seen as overkill – and certainly it doesn’t come cheap.
So, the new Mac Pro needs to be more powerful, smaller, simpler and quieter. Then there’s that gap in the product line-up. If you ask me, the timing is perfect for Apple to redesign the Pro line and I have my fingers crossed for a revolution, or more accurately, a renaissance – I hope apple bring back the Cube.
I’m thinking an aluminium unibody enclosure very much like a tall Mac Mini, with finely perforated ventilation grill detailing like the MacBook Pro, packing multiple Thunderbolts, dual Gigabit Ethernets, FW800 and USB ports, rounding things off with up to 4 internal HDDs (with SSD+ATA options of course) a SuperDrive and an SD card slot.
Of course, for all I know the Mac Pro will probably just get a routine processor and architecture bump along with a few Thunderbolt ports, and that would be a crying shame.
There’s always the possibility that Apple will come up with something even I hadn’t dreamt of – all those circles in Lion make me think the new Pro could even be cylindrical…
Whatever it is, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed, and the credit card is waiting 🙂