Apple’s New iMac Pro: Another Possible Failure to Capture the Professional Market
Last week, Apple released a teaser video for its upcoming release of its “iMac Pro” later this year sometime in December. The teaser video was aired at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that is geared towards showing what software plans the company has in an effort to give developers hands-on training and time to prepare their work for the public release of software updates this fall. However, this year was different as the Apple did announce new operating systems for all of its products, but there was also a major focus on hardware upgrades as well. That focus on hardware was shown with the announcement of the “iMac Pro,” as Apple is calling it.
Apple’s 30 second video did not show too much, but it did showcase an all Space Gray iMac with a Space Gray Magic Mouse, Space Gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, and Space Gray Trackpad. Apple spent a good deal of time dubbing the future machine as a new source of power for professional users. The machine comes standard with an 8-core workstation-grade Xeon processor (upgradable to a 10 or 18-Core Xeon Processor), Radeon Pro Vega Graphics with 8 or 16GB of VRAM (which haven’t even been announced yet), a standard 32GB kit of 2666MHz RAM (upgradable to 64 or 128GB), up to a 4TB SSD capable of speed up to 3GB/S, 4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, a 10GB Ethernet port, and a new 5K display capable of 500 nits and support for 1 Billion colors. Apple claimed the machine is the most affordable machine of its kind, starting at $4,999, but the machine won’t even be available for purchase until sometime in December.
The specs on the possible combinations for pro users does seem very impressive, however the machine lacks innovation. It is essentially an iMac in a Space Gray paint job with workstation-grade components. In typical Apple fashion, most of the components will be soldered to the logic board, making upgrades down the road impossible. iFix It’s teardown of the new iMac did reveal that the CPU and RAM are modular, but customers would have to take almost the entire machine apart just to get at them, something most would not feel comfortable with. This is a major problem, for professional-grade customers in particular. With new hardware coming out every year, pros need to be able to upgrade their machines to have the most power possible. Average consumers do not need this power upgrade every year, and with the lack of upgradeability, pros are stuck where they stand as soon as new components are made available with more power.
Now the new machine does have some promising features. Apple has made a big step in adding support for Virtual Reality (VR) development with a major bump in graphics performance. Apple announced that they are even working on editing video with Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) in a virtual reality space. Along with this, the machine has 4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports to support the use of external graphics cards to add even more power, but graphics cards are only a part of the equation. The new 5K retina display shows even more promise for pro photo and video editors that need some of the best displays on the market.
There are still a lot of moving parts with this machine. There is still an ample amount of time for things to change before December. My problem with the announcement, is that it resembled the teaser for the updated Mac Pro from a few years ago. An all new design, enhanced thermal cooling, workstation-grade components, new power for pro users, a lack of upgradability, and an “affordable” price for its power parallels Apple’s message when it teased an updated Mac Pro back in 2013. It should be noted that Apple has confirmed that there are still plans for a new Mac Pro that is more of a tower design coming sometime next year (2018). The teaser video seemed as if it was an attempt to regain the pro’s confidence in Apple. The iMac Pro is anticipated to run at least $6-7,000 after some upgrades. With the new Mac Pro expected to at the very least be announced maybe just months after, the iMac Pro seems as if it would be a waste for most pro users as it would be a bad long term investment, especially with its lack of upgradability. However, it would benefit all users if the iMac Pro turns out to be better than anything anyone could expect, but only time will tell what professional customers think of the new and expensive machine.