A year ago, in April 2017, Apple invited the press to confirm something highly expected by the professional public: the company was working on a new fully modular desktop computer (in order to correct a design flaw in the current model) and a new monitor for use with the new machine (sold separately, of course). She did not give a deadline, however, for the pair to reach the market, just indicating that it would not happen in 2017 (which automatically made the world believe in 2018).
Apple, however, has been slow to develop its products (so it was with AirPods and HomePod; not to mention the new AirPods – with wireless charging case – and the AirPower wireless charging base, which so far have not seen daylight). And now, one more for the account: according to TechCrunch, the long-awaited new Mac Pro will not arrive this year!
Matthew Panzarino spoke to the people responsible for driving Apple’s strategy for professional products (John Ternus, vice president of hardware engineering; Tom Boger, senior director of hardware product marketing for Macs; Jud Coplan, director of product marketing of video apps; and Xander Soren, director of marketing for music app products) and had access to demonstrations of how Apple is addressing the ability to update, develop its professional apps and how it changed its process to better understand how these professionals actually use their products.
And that was when he had the final news that the new / long-awaited desktop will not hit the market before 2019.
We want to be transparent and communicate openly with our professional community, so we want them to know that the Mac Pro is a product for 2019. It is not something for this year.
We know that today there are many customers who are making purchasing decisions on the iMac Pro and wondering whether or not to wait for the Mac Pro. That’s why Apple wants to be as explicit as possible now, whether institutional buyers or other big customers are hoping to invest their budgets, say, in iMacs Pro or other machines, they should do that without worrying about the idea of a Mac Pro coming up at the end of the year.
Professional workflow team
Demonstrating that in fact professional users still receive the attention they deserve, Panzarino said that Apple created a team within the building that houses its group of professional products. Called a “professional workflow team” and led by Ternus, the group works closely with the engineering organization. The “bays” of people working with Final Cut Pro, for example, are a few doors away from the engineers in charge of making it work well with Apple hardware.
We said at last year’s meeting that the professional community is not one. It is very diverse. There are many different types of professionals and, obviously, they go very deep in hardware and software, and are pushing everything to the limit. So, one thing you need to do is engage with customers to really understand their needs. Because we want to provide complete professional solutions and not just deliver great hardware – which we are doing, as we did with the iMac Pro. But we have to look at everything holistically.
This, however, is not an easy thing. Apple wants its architects to sit down with real customers and understand their flow, seeing what they are doing in real time. Except that, although Apple customers are generally very receptive, it is not always easy to achieve this because many end up working with proprietary content. An example is John Powell, a Logic Pro user who is working on the new film in the «Star Wars» franchise focused on the character Han Solo – such content, of course, is highly secretive until the production debut.
The solution? Simply start hiring these creatives – some of them under a fixed-term contract; others, as full-time employees. ? They are undoubtedly perfectly capable of testing hardware and software and pointing out points that can cause frustrations and disappointments among professional users.
The idea, according to Ternus, was to start focused and then increase the team and disciplines over time:
We also focus on visual effects, video editing, 3D animation and music production. And we brought incredible talents, really masters of their craft. And now they’re sitting around and building workflows in-house with real content and really looking for what the bottlenecks are. What are the points of suffering. How can we improve things? And then, we take this information where we find it, we talk to our architecture team, our performance architects, we really detail and find out where the bottleneck is. It is in the operating system that we are drivers, it’s in the app, it’s silicon, and then we’ve analyzed everything to fix it.
Apple then went from “just designing Macs and software” to designing a workflow and really understanding all the steps in the process. «As we build the hardware, the firmware, the operating system, the software and we have these close relationships with third parties, we can attack on all sides and really find out where we are, where we can optimize performance,» said Boger.
Plans for the future
The notion of a modular desktop computer has long permeated Apple’s thinking. Now, this is what motivated the creation of a new Mac Pro in favor of a limited structure, like the current one. This new way of working generated by the professional workflow team, however, is greatly influencing Apple’s architecture and plans for the future of its professional line – not limited to the Mac Pro and also extending to other computers, such as the iMac Pro itself, the regular iMac and the MacBook Pro. “There is an absolute need for modularity in certain places. But it’s also clear that the iMac or MacBook Pro format can be exceptionally good tools, ”said Ternus.
In his wanderings through Apple’s labs – and in a demonstration of modularity that many don’t imagine – Panzarino saw, for example, an iMac Pro with two iPad Pro connected to it, allowing direct control, shortcuts and access to Logic while mixing music on the primary device. He also saw an eGPU with a MacBook Pro editing an 8K resolution video with color gradation and applied effects.
What we do know now is that the Mac Pro will be modular and is being shaped by feedback from these internal professionals and by external conversations with developers and professional users – and that we most likely * won’t * hear anything about the machine in the keynote of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC ) 2018, next June.
Panzarino’s conversation with Apple apparently left out information about the monitor – a project much simpler and easier to complete than that of a new modular desktop computer. But taking into account that it is a fundamental piece for the Mac Pro, even if the monitor is ready before the computer is highly likely that everything will be released together next year.