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Apple plans to innovate with a new 'modular' Mac Pro, but it's just spec bumps for now

Why it matters to you

Anyone holding out for Apple to innovate on the desktop will have to wait a little longer, but they can buy a faster Mac Pro in the short term.

Apple’s Mac Pro line of desktops has by far received the least upgrades in recent years. It’s been over three years since the machines were given even a specification bump, and that’s left many wondering if Apple had any plans to continue making them.

Today, Apple announced that a new Mac Pro is coming someday that should please its most faithful fans. For now, however, those fans will have to settle for a small increase in specifications, as Daring Fireball reports.

Apple’s Phil Shiller outlined Apple’s general plan regarding the Mac Pro’s complete overhaul:

“With regards to the Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call ‘completely rethinking the Mac Pro.’ We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers. As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.”

As Daring Fireball notes, describing a future product isn’t Apple’s preference. Usually, the company works in silence and then introduces new products with great fanfare. And so coming right out and describing what it’s working on is unusual.

In any case, that new modular Mac Pro won’t be arriving in 2017, and Apple was cagey about whether it would arrive in 2018. In the meantime, Mac Pro users waiting for a modern, innovative machine will have to settle in the meantime for the same Mac Pro with slightly upgraded components.

Those upgrades are relatively small. The $3,000 quad-core Mac Pro with dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs has morphed into a six-core Mac Pro with dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs. The $4,000 model now has an eight-core processor and dual AMD FirePro D800 GPUs, replacing the model that is now slotted in at the low-end. Both models have 16GB of RAM and neither has USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3, and neither are yet reflected in the Apple Store configurations.

According to Apple, Mac revenues are split roughly into roughly 80 percent notebooks and 20 percent desktops. So, while desktops aren’t the most significant portion of Mac revenues for the company, they’re not insignificant either. Roughly 30 percent of Apple users use professional software at least weekly — a significant portion of its user base, but not overwhelming.

Nevertheless, this should be good news for anyone who has been waiting and hoping for a Mac Pro refresh. For now, you’ll have to settle for a slightly faster version of the existing model, but Apple hasn’t forgotten that you also want it to innovate in this market as well. You’ll just have to wait a bit longer to see what it comes up with.