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There will be good news for Mac fans this year after all

Tim Cook presenting the Mac Pro on stage at WWDC in 2019.
Apple

Just a couple days ago, it looked like 2024 was going to be a slow year for Mac fans, with a worrying dearth of new Apple computers in the cards. Now, though, things are picking up slightly, with a handful of new Macs apparently a few months away.

Right now, I’m not getting my hopes up that 2024 will be huge for the Mac, but there are a few bright spots on the horizon. That’s because the latest Power On newsletter from Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman suggests Apple is going to launch a couple of high-end Macs this year to keep at least some of its fans happy.

Specifically, Gurman believes that a new version of the Mac Studio will make an appearance at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2024, with a revamped Mac Pro following at some point later in the year.

Just last week, a new report from TrendForce opined that the Mac Studio could return at WWDC. Yet it made no mention of the Mac Pro, leading some people to conclude that Apple’s most expensive Mac was being delayed at the very least — either that, or it was potentially heading for the chopping block.

Now, Gurman’s report seems to allay that fear, and makes me think that 2024 won’t be quite as devoid of new Macs as previously thought. But it’s not exactly a year bursting with new Apple computers: you can count the upcoming new Macs on one hand, with just the M3 MacBook Air expected to appear in addition to the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade, you might have a long delay ahead of you.

The Mac Pro’s awkward position

Apple Mac Studio top down view showing PC and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Gurman’s report claims that the Mac Studio and Mac Pro will come equipped with an M3 Ultra chip, which will be packed with 32 CPU cores and 80 GPU cores. That will make it Apple’s most powerful desktop chip ever, and that’s surely something to look forward to, right?

Well, yes and no. Given how impressive the existing range of M3 chips has been, the M3 Ultra is likely to be another strong entry. But Gurman has made no mention of the rumored Extreme tier chip — something he was apparently very sure was on the way a year or so ago. Right now, it looks like that chip is well and truly dead and buried.

That’s especially disappointing because Apple’s desktop Macs usually have a much longer upgrade cycle than the company’s laptops. I say “usually” because, if Gurman is correct, there could be just 12 months between the M2 Ultra Mac Studio and its M3 Ultra upgrade. But if the M3 Extreme isn’t revealed inside the Mac Studio or the Mac Pro this year, we can probably finally put those rumors to bed.

That will leave the Mac Pro in an increasingly awkward spot. Right now, there’s very little reason to get one — with the exact same configuration, it costs $3,000 more to buy a Mac Pro than a Mac Studio. About the only benefit is the Mac Pro’s PCIe expansion options, but without an Extreme chip, its appeal will remain highly limited.

Apple is fighting fires

Apple Vision Pro being worn by a person while using a keyboard.
Apple

Despite all that, the Mac Studio and Mac Pro could actually be two of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing year for Apple fans. Gurman’s report makes it clear that 2024 is shaping up to be a year to forget for a multitude of reasons.

For one thing, Gurman points out that Apple is years behind its rivals in terms of artificial intelligence (AI). Companies like OpenAI (the maker of ChatGPT), Google, Microsoft and Amazon all launched generative AI products months or even years ago. Apple will release its own generative AI — a product that will enable code completion in Xcode, auto-summarizing in apps like Pages and Keynote, and improvements to Siri — at WWDC, Gurman says. But it’ll take until at least 2025 before Apple’s AI tools are able to “fully scale,” he adds.

Antitrust regulators are also bearing down on Apple and will almost certainly force the company to allow third-party app stores in the EU this year. And while Gurman’s news about the Mac Studio and Mac Pro is undoubtedly a good thing for Mac fans, most people won’t be buying them given their sky-high prices and niche use cases.

Notwithstanding the Vision Pro’s imminent launch, its sales won’t be huge due to its eye-watering $3,499 price tag. Yet Apple devoted so many internal resources to getting its headset ready that few have been available for anything else, which is likely one reason why we’ll see so few Macs this year.

If you’re in the market for a Mac Studio or a Mac Pro, Gurman’s latest news will be welcome. But for everyday Mac users, there are few reasons to get excited as Apple focuses on the Vision Pro and fights fires on multiple fronts.

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