Apple needed to deliver more power to professionals to keep them on the Mac platform, and it did but in the form of the new insanely-spec'd iMac Pro rather than an upgraded Mac Pro.
Badly needing to regain momentum among the professional crowd, Apple announced hardware improvements across both the iMac and MacBook Pro product lines at its Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday.
The biggest surprise was that Apple announced a new "space gray" iMac Pro that can be configured with up to an 18-core Intel Xeon CPU, 128GB of RAM, and a 4TB SSD drive. Keep in mind that the base model of this beast will feature an 8-core Xeon, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD and it will cost $4999. So, the price of the fully configured version is going to be astronomical, likely in the $8K-$10K range, when it arrives at "the end of the year."
Nevertheless, the WWDC keynote made no mention of the Mac Pro, which means the Mac desktop tower is likely to be on the way to the dustheap—unless sales of the iMac Pro disappoint.
The problem with high-powered iMacs in the past has been overheating since they don't have traditional desktop fans. However, Apple tacitly acknowledged the issue on stage at WWDC by taking time to explain and visualize the fact that it has designed a new two-fan cooling system for the iMac Pro.
The $4999 iMac Pro will also include:
- 5K Retina display
- Radeon Vega graphics
- Can also power two external displays
- Thunderbolt 3
- 10GB Ethernet
- 4 traditional USB ports
- 4 USB-C ports
- SD card reader
The 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs get Intel's new 7th generation Core processor ("Kaby Lake") and graphics upgrades. Here are the configurations and prices:
- iMac 21.5-inch: $1099
- iMac 21.5-inch with 4K display: $1299
- iMac 27-inch with 5K display: $1799
Kaby Lake is also coming to the MacBook Pro lineup, along with graphics and SSD upgrades:
- MacBook Pro 13-inch: $1299 (a drop from $1499)
- MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar: $1799
- MacBook Pro 15-inch with Touch Bar: $2399
The 12-inch MacBook also gets an upgrade to Kaby Lake (and remains at a base price of $1299). The MacBook Air gets an upgrade from a 1.6 GHz base processor to 1.8GHz (assumably not Kaby Lake).
In addition to not hearing anything about the Mac Pro, we also didn't hear anything about the Mac on the other end of the spectrum, the Mac Mini.
Other than the performance upgrades—which are likely to welcomed by professionals that remain invested in the Mac platform—there were few new innovations introduced or announced for the Mac at WWDC. No wireless broadband added to MacBook Pros, for example.
As impressive as the performance of iMac Pro looks, the price could make it impractical for many professionals and businesses. Having seen past iMacs overheat, professionals will also continue to be concerned about the cooling of the iMac Pro despite Apple's WWDC assurances. In the end, a high-powered Mac tower would have likely cost less, been more modular, and attracted a lot more enterprise buyers.
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