The New Mac [Pro]

According to AppleInsider Apple may drop the Mac Pro. The rest of the internet has all the numbers and such, so as a pro user myself who compiles, renders, renders 3D, runs multiple virtual servers, all on a single 8-Core Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM, I’ll let you know what I need in a “Pro” machine.

Since Apple first started using Core2Duos, the speed bottlenecks have rarely been the processor. Usually it was prohibitively expensive RAM (2GB at the time, 8GB is standard now), but now even with SSDs it’s still the hard drives, in part because some applications don’t greedily take 4+GB for themselves and instead page often.

Back when I was a student, we had to design an experiment to determine whether additional threads or additional processes had greater overhead. Running it on the earliest of Core2Duo MacBook Pros we found that process creation was in fact slower but not as drastically as we hoped. In fact, the fastest completion of the program was to serialize the steps and only run a few threads. This may sound trivial, and it’s what the Grand Central Dispatch APIs are for, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

When I do a clean compile of iDecorate, Xcode has to reconvert all of my PNGs to compressed PNGs that iOS uses. When this happens, I see one PNGCOMPRESS process for each image, no more than two at a time, all spiking the core they’re running on at the time.

When I use Final Cut Pro X or reencode something using Quicktime X, all the work is done on the GPU and my MacBook Air with a 320m actually keeps up reasonably well with the Mac Pro.

So in the real world, the Mac Pro only wins when doing CPU only work (no GPU) that’s optimized for 8 Cores, like exporting from Bryce. The following is what I think is a realistic headless machine Apple could make between the Mac Mini and the soon to be dead Mac Pro.

Size: Think two mini’s stacked. This shape would also be stable upright which I like.
Processor: One quad or higher core mobile processor. Apple will officially stop using desktop processors.
RAM: The Mini has 2 slots, I want 8, 4 would make me happy. Yes it will be mobile RAM.
HDD: 4 2.5″ Drives. Let’s face it, SSDs negate the need for 3.5″ SATA Drives. To be true to the Mac Pro spirit, these will be as easy to replace as RAM is in the current Minis.
RAID Controller: NO
Fibre Channel: Available via thunderbolt?
Optical: Haha just kidding.
Video: A desktop class card with at least 1GB of VRAM, 3 thunderbolt ports, one HDMI, and the ability to run 4 displays (including the HDMI).
Name: The Mac
Price: $999 for Dual Core i5, one SSD, a decent video card, and a miserable amount of RAM.
$1999 for the Quad (or more) i7, twice as much VRAM, one SSD, and a fair amount of RAM.
$999 “Server” Quad (or more) i7, intel graphics, one SSD, and a miserable amount of RAM.

It would not surprise me if moving forward Apple started making SSD’s the “starting point” configurations for the advertised price and you could CTO it to a larger HDD for the same price. (“More Speed” vs “More Storage”, the marketing writes itself!). Hopefully this will somehow get Apple an economies of scale advantage on SSD prices because right now they sell them for twice retail.

Additional Details:
Remember Steve’s square? One Consumer and One Professional Desktop and Laptop? Kill the Mac Mini and replace it with this also and we’re getting there.

MacBook Air MacBook Pro
iMac Mac Mini Pro

Now that I look at that, the iMac not lining up with an iBook, and the MacBook Pro not lining up with a Mac Pro bothers me, and it probably bothers someone at Apple. Maybe Apple will name
this abomination a Mac Pro after all and rename the iMac to the Mac? I’m not so sure, there’s 10 years of goodwill behind that name, then again, 10 years…