Executive Editor, MacworldDEC 20, 2022 11:07 am PST
If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the launch of the Apple silicon Mac Pro and dreaming of the fastest Mac ever, you might be in for a disappointment. A report this past weekend from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said that Apple is having major problems producing the so-called M2 Extreme chip that was supposed to power the new machine.
As a result, Gurman says, the top-of-the-line Mac Pro will likely have a slightly faster M2 Ultra chip with 24 CPU cores and 76 GPU cores. Granted, that’s still a very fast chip, but for Mac Pro buyers who have been waiting to see the next speed evolution of Apple silicon on the Mac, it’s likely to be a disappointment. The gap between the Mac Pro and the next fastest Mac is supposed to be massive, and the chip Gurman describes won’t be.
But all is not lost. Even without a crazy fast chip, Apple can still make the Mac Pro the centerpiece of its Mac lineup. Here are three ideas on how to address this major problem.
Keep Intel inside
The easiest way to overcome its chip issues would be to just keep Intel around. The people who buy a Mac Pro wouldn’t necessarily care which company makes the CPU as long as it’s fast, and Intel makes plenty of newer Xeon W chips it could use.
It’s not a crazy notion. While Apple’s Mac chips are ridiculously fast, many Mac Pro buyers would probably rather just replace one of their existing Intel Macs with a faster one than worry about the potential compatibility and expandability issues with a new Apple silicon machine.
Focus on expandability
The most interesting tidbit in Gurman’s report wasn’t the supposed cancellation of the Extreme chip, it was his claim that the new Mac Pro “will retain one of its hallmark features: easy expandability for additional memory, storage, and other components.” That’s a somewhat vague statement that’s open to some interpretation, but it seems to indicate that the Mac Pro’s processor will feature a new architecture that doesn’t use unified memory.
That alone will be a powerful selling point for the Mac Pro. No other Apple silicon-based Mac offers aftermarket upgrades in any way, so if users are able to add memory and storage, that would definitely be a unique selling point. But what would make it more unique is if Apple sold the components itself. It would be pricey for sure, but if Apple sold RAM sticks, SSDs, and standalone GPUs, it would surely cover up the fact that the Mac Pro isn’t as fast as everyone thought it would be.
Retire the Mac Studio
If the Mac Pro is only slightly faster than the top Mac Studio configuration, perhaps Apple doesn’t need to sell the Mac Studio anymore. It always felt like a stopgap machine, kind of like the iMac Pro–a powerful niche Mac that was filling the space between Mac Pro models. If the Mac Studio is a one-and-done machine, no one would be surprised or upset, especially if an updated M2 Pro/M2 Max Mac mini and the rumored iMac Pro revival arrives next year as well.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.