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Is the end nigh for Apple's biggest Mac?

Apple Talk: Mac Pro's future under scrutiny...

...Apple's core audience. Things have moved on. With iOS devices and Macs like the MacBook Air and iMac, Apple is revelling in a marketplace where it once used to lose out.

Apple is a consumer technology company. At the launch of the iPad, Jobs referred to Apple as "a mobile devices company" and boasted it was bigger in this field than Sony.

The Mac Pro probably still has a few years in it because Apple will not wish to relinquish its presence in high-end workstations for creative professionals

The Mac Pro must have a few years in it because Apple won't want to relinquish its presence in high-end workstations for creative professionalsPhoto: Apple

The company's actions since then have underlined this position. Apple's Xserve, a foray into server territory, was shelved. Final Cut Pro, the company's professional video editing software, was given a consumer facelift, infuriating the faithful who have had to be re-educated by Apple.

The Mac Pro has drifted to the periphery. By my calculations it hasn't had a speed bump for the best part of 18 months, a lifetime for a modern computer, particularly one that represents the most powerful device in Apple's line-up.

Yet, the Mac Pro remains despite the lack of updates. You have to suspect it makes a profit as it is inconceivable that Apple would continue with a computer that failed to add to its coffers, no matter the machine's lack of glamour and its resolute inability to fit into a pocket.

If the Mac Pro were to go, what could take its place? For all its elegance, the iMac is simply a glorified notebook because it largely uses notebook components. And if the Mac Pro were to go, what next? The iMac itself? The computer that reignited Apple's fortunes?

My guess is that the Mac Pro still has a few years in it. The company will not wish to relinquish its presence in high-end workstations for creative professionals. Not while Apple continues to produce and update pro software for those markets.

It still has a strong presence in those markets and it makes no sense to abandon it. The Xserve was abandoned because it failed to get sufficient traction - Apple suggested users switch either to the Mac Pro Server or the Mac Mini Server.

Furthermore, I suspect that Apple wants to continue to serve its core audiences if only for the knowledge that burned bridges are difficult to rebuild.

A report from Macrumors suggests there is evidence in the beta version of OS X 10.7.3 of support for forthcoming desktop graphics cards from AMD. The rest of the Mac range uses mobile GPUs, so only the Mac Pro could support them.

As mobile devices become more powerful, we will inevitably evolve towards more power in smaller packages. However, Apple is betting heavily on the cloud to replace the need for massive storage, and the processing power for that is far from ready.

What we might have previously referred to as a Mac Pro could have filled a room 25 years ago. There's still enough space on Tim Cook's table for the time being.

The Mac Pro may be out of sight, but not out of mind. Not yet.

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