Home Opinion This Isn’t a Blog Post About Mac Pros…

This Isn’t a Blog Post About Mac Pros…

by alexis

Sigh.

I wasn’t going to chime in on this ongoing conversation, as frankly I don’t know that I have anything meaningful to add, and there’s nothing worse then baseless speculation about Apple. However, friend and colleague Patrick Inhofer noticed a blog entry of mine dating from the summer of 2010, fully two years ago this month, in which I foolishly elected to weigh in on the topic in response to Apple’s second to last, somewhat weak refresh of the Mac Pro line.

Since I had just moved the client part of my color correction practice over to DaVinci Resolve, I needed a new machine for the suite, so I went ahead and bought the 2010 Mac Pro later that summer. Little had I realized I’d be parked on that machine for the next two years.

My speculations in that prior post are now woefully dated, and I have no problem admitting that I was completely wrong. Apple was obviously not waiting for next generation FireWire, they went all in on Thunderbolt. And clearly, updating to PCIe 3.0 hasn’t been a priority (yet). And so, all of us who are still Mac Pro based shops continue to wait. So what do I think Apple’s going to do?

I have no fucking idea.

I might venture to guess that Apple is waiting for next gen Thunderbolt, but that’s hardly an original stroke of genius on my part since it’s the only machine in the lineup that’s lacking the new port. I’ve long been saying to friends that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Apple rethought the overall form factor in some dramatic way, but that’s not exactly an original thought either. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to make a bet, I would guess that Apple will most likely release something that they think will serve users in the Mac Pro market. And they may call it a Mac Pro, or they may not. Whatever they call it, the users will decide whether it’s a legitimate upgrade, voting with their wallets.

As I said on Twitter last night, if Apple releases a new machine that affordably does what I need, high-bandwidth data transfer among multiple high-end GPUs, with lots of RAM, fast CPUs, and access to suitable pro-video interfaces and accelerated storage, then I don’t care what they call the thing or what it looks like.

I’m not quite willing to believe that the Mac Pro is dead to Apple. After all, Apple isn’t shy about pulling the plug on things. When it was announced that the Xserve was no more, Apple blew out the stock and took the product off their storefront. That’s what I call a dead product. So long as the assembly line is cranking out new Mac Pros, no matter how creaky they are, I’m inclined to believe that there’s something on the horizon.

So me? I’m waiting to see. Granted, I’ve got a relatively “recent” Apple box, so I can afford to wait and see as my current equipment can keep up with the needs of my current clientele. But other folks, like one commenter who’s stuck with a six year+ machine, have the really tough choice. I don’t blame anyone for going the Windows route, I think it makes all the sense in the world for someone who needs more power, to earn money and get things done, to switch platforms.

However, my general philosophy of buying new technology is to wait until two paying clients in a row come to me to do something that I can’t do with my current hardware. As my general goal is to avoid saying “no” three times in a row, I’ll gladly spend money for something that pays for itself in jobs I’d otherwise be unable to get. However, I’m not going to buy anything new just to have a new hotrod. Much as I’d love to, I’ve got other financial priorities.

So, while I can do what I need with what I have, as soon as I find myself in the awkward position of having a job go marginally because my hardware isn’t up to the task, then I too will be evaluating my options, and I’m not at all opposed to switching to Windows, or even Linux, if that gives me better bang for the buck, and better capabilities, then Apple’s offerings on that date. My software is no longer a limiting factor (although ProRes encoding, distressingly, still is), so switching platforms, even multiple times, is not as much of a pain in the ass as it once might have been.

I figure I’ve got another 12-odd months with my current workstation before I too start feeling the pinch. If Apple makes something that’s expandable and useful by then, cool. But I’m not taking any bets. We’ll see.

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4 comments

npeason July 23, 2012 - 6:06 pm

The concensus seems to be that Intel’s current Xeon Processors are too hot and came out too late, so they are waiting for the next gen.

My fear is Tim Cook’s “something special for professional users” that they are going to release next year is going to get rid of most of the PCIe slots. A repeat of what happened when the blue G3 was released.

Thunderbolt is nice but even Intel’s projected max speed of 100Gbps, which won’t happen until 2020, is slower than an X16 PCIe 3.0 slot is today by 28 Gbps. Many current-gen dual Xeon boards have 3 such slots, as well as 3 to 4 X8 slots. It’s obvious that Tunderbolt ultimately will not keep up with PCIe except for single device senarios like RED ROCKET transcoding.

I don’t think Apple will give up the horsepower completely, as long as you’re happy with the fast consumer CPUs and not Xeons. But the bandwidth for expansion cards may be going away for good on the Apple platform.

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Ernest July 27, 2012 - 2:30 pm

You can encode ProRes on a windows box now, either FFmbc/FFmpeg or 5dtoRGB as of version 1.5.6b Windows x64. It’s still not as easy or slick as on OS X, but it’s doable.

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Alexis July 27, 2012 - 6:28 pm

Very cool. Still, I wish that Apple was more liberal with their licensing. And I wish they’d just get off their bums and code up an official ProRes encoder for Linux. I’ve said it before and will say it again, if Apple wants ProRes to be an industry standard workflow, they need to give a little and improve cross-platform interoperability.

Reply
Ernest July 28, 2012 - 9:49 am

I agree 100%, but Apple seems rather at odds with ProRes as an industry wide standard codec and the “closed garden” mindset that has taken hold with the (admittedly very profitable) rise of the App stores.

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