People have been talking about what a super Pro Mac laptop would be ever since Apple released the 2016 MackBook Pro with Touch Bar. Basically, this Mac would have
- The same body as the previous Retina MacBook Pros (both 13” and 15”)
- Keep the same size battery as before, or make it larger/more efficient if possible
- Update with the latest Coffee Lake Processors
- Add some more serious graphics to it
- For IO, I would replace the entire left side (the side with MagSafe, Thunderbolt 2, USB 3, and audio,), and replace this with two (or maybe 3) Thunderbolt 3 ports and the headphone jack. Then leave the entire right side of the machine as is.In my opinion this is the perfect IO configuration for 2017.
- And yes, I would keep the keyboard/touch bar from the 2016 MacBook Pro. Maybe have the option of not having the touch bar?
I think this would have really satisfied most pro users. It gives them more power, doesn’t change their workflow in a way that prevents them from doing their work, and moves the platform into the future. Apple revealed that 70% of their pro machines are laptops. I know for a fact that many of these laptops are sitting on a desk attached to a monitor and keyboard most of the time. This is probably due to the fact that Apple’s pro desktops have been neglected in recent years. The Mac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2013 and really doesn’t perform well for many Pro tasks. Apple bet on the computing industry going towards multi-GPU configurations, while GPU makers produced faster and hotter single graphics cards. For many people, including most developers, they have switched to the iMac and are using that as a pro machine. For single threaded performance, the iMac is pretty powerful. However, for a whole swath of professionals, the iMac does not fit their needs. Personally, I don’t want to be tied to the same display forever, however great it might be.
I also want to be able to expand and upgrade the machine in the future. This particular point goes against a lot of Apple’s methodology over the past few years. The 2012 and earlier Mac Pros were actually quite upgradable: with a few PCIe slots, four hard drive slots, upgradable RAM, and upgradable CPUs. The 2013 Mac Pro went in a completely different direction, with basically only the RAM being user upgradable. From the information gathered at this meeting, it seems that Apple is going to make a machine that is closer to the cheese grater Mac Pro than the trash can Mac Pro. I think that a tower Mac Pro with some design influence from the 2013 Mac Pro is exactly the machine that Apple could make. We still do not have a lot of specifics as far as hardware concerned, we can speculate as to what the machine might be like.
I think that a machine like the new iMac Pro could be the desktop for a lot of Pros, especially web and software developers who don’t necessarily need tons of cores.
Another topic that was brought up was the Mac Mini. Phil Schiller, Apples VP of Hardware, said they have nothing to say about it at this point, which, considering how open they were about future plans in this meeting, leads me to believe that they will kill it off in the near future. I think that would be a shame, as there are some really cool use cases for the Mac Mini. It can be a really cool and small HTPC. Although this has become much less important since the Apple TV is so much more powerful now than when the Mac Mini was introduced. It makes a great first Mac for people, although I think that the iPad serves this part of the market pretty well, or they see these people mostly buying laptops. The third unique Mac Mini use case is as a server. Apple still offers a server OS, but it no longer comes preinstalled on any machines. The Mac Mini or the Mac Pro are the only real machines it makes sense to run it on. At this point, however I would be worried that they might kill that off since it hasn’t received a major update in several years. I personally think that it would be cool to basically put a Mac in the body of the new Apple TV with like 4 USB C ports on the back. This is definitely technically possible, especially with the popularity of the Intel NUC. They could even just put the MacBook internals into one, and that would probably work just fine.
As far as the Mac Pro, I see two routes that Apple could take: they could basically either built a super sleek looking PC tower, or build something that was still pretty proprietary, but was something that they could update. As someone who enjoys building and seeing PC’s I would love for them to go with the first option. There are a few things that this entails. For one, they need most of the parts, if not all of them to be upgradable. I fully expect the motherboard to be proprietary, but the CPU, RAM, GPU, and storage should be user replaceable. That means that the user can replace these parts if they break, or want to upgrade. While a modular design won’t necessarily mean Apple will update the Mac Pro more often, it does mean that users can bypass Apple and update it themselves. I could throw in an Nvidia GTX 1180 when it comes out if I wanted.
Ultimately, we don’t really know the direction Apple will take with the future of the Mac Pro. There are a million different designs they could take, and all we really know is that its not going to be a trash can. All I really want is more than 4 cores, tons of Thunderbolt 3, and a top end graphics card.