Apple, Tech, and Gaming

Mac Pro on the Way Out or Changing with the Times?

- 2012.05.22 - Tip Jar

After two years with no update, where is the Mac Pro headed?

According to much speculation, the Mac Pro may be on the chopping block. Creative types and die-hard Mac tinkerers hate to think a day when Apple stops making a fully customizable machine, Mac Probut again - just like the 17" MacBook Pro (which we looked at on Tuesday) - it's day may have come courtesy of Thunderbolt. Let's face it: The Mac Pro hasn't been updated in two years, and the graphics options are dated by today's standards and fairly limited. To gain access to more powerful graphics cards than the Radeon 5870, you generally have to find a flashed PC video card (although there are reports of some working out of the box).

All that I have to say as a remedy to the problem is one phrase: Thunderbolt mini server rack enclosure and a special version of OS X Server.

With multiple (let's say up to six) special Mac mini servers (with socketed processors, not soldered ones) per enclosure clustered in an array (via Thunderbolt) with a special OS X Server/Client edition that could allow you to utilize the resources from as many Mini servers as you wanted chained together, a Mac Pro could be a thing of the past. By simply plugging these special Mac minis into the rack that would connect them by a single Thunderbolt port and power connector (which could be outfitted with a dock for single unit use), the possibilities just got enormous. Apple just hasn't unleashed the true potential to this catch-all port yet, since development on it is still in its infancy.

Combine this "mini server enclosure" with its own power supply, a few available PCIe slots, ports galore, and two optional optical bays per enclosure, and there would be no limit to the power you could unleash. At the same time, it would retain the current customization capabilities of the Mac Pro, while gaining the ability to either grow that power to a limitless scale or tone it down to a "prosumer" machine (with maybe just two Minis clustered). It would kind of be a modernized Xserve for the masses that would handle the purposes of professional creative types, "core" gamers, hardware tinkers, and enterprises. I'm sure it's already in the works, since the Mac Pro hasn't been updated in two years.

On the other hand, why not just offer a nice update to the case with new ports and much better Xeon processors?

Instead of my crazy server rack suggestion, why not just update the Mac Pro, add the fastest Intel logic boards available with the fastest Xeons, add Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, eSATA, and insanely fast graphics options, increase the memory ceiling to a staggering sum (say 512 GB), and make dual-layer Blu-ray drives standard?

While Apple is at it, it could make some sort of clustering more accessible to the masses to harness crazy amounts of computing power with a special version of OS X. Apple still could go with some sort of enclosure too for the "prosumer" like my older rendition of the Intel Cube, but updated for today (after all, that proposed design is now three years old). Why not spice it up a bit like they used to? Choice is good.

Apple: An Eternal Love/Hate Relationship

We love to love Apple for driving new technology, and we love to hate Apple at the same time for tearing down the walls of what we have come to love and embrace. We love and hate to think and speculate what might happen next, since Apple is always changing (for better or worse). It's what sets Apple apart from the rest of the pack.

Steve Jobs' reality distortion field, along with the rebel spirit and pirate flags in Cupertino, may be long gone, but Apple never ceases to amaze us. I don't think Apple will ever destroy the relationship with those creative types who made it successful in the first place, but I do foresee a shift in the direction of creating a line of products that are more universal with the power to create anything you want while being better suited at the same time for the everyman consumer.

Apple can put itself in a win-win situation by just doing a better job at providing more customizatons options (from the OS to the hardware) that professionals demand if it wants to make a product that is more universal in its base configuration. Again, choice and the ability to upgrade are good things for both the consumer and the Apple community as a whole.

I hope Jony Ive is already working on that Thunderbolt server rack enclosure case design and my Intel Cube. I'm getting a bit tired of looking at the cheese grater design of the nearly decade-old Power Mac G5. Give us some new and unusual Macs, Jony! We miss those days. LEM

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Dan Bashur lives in central Ohio with his wife and children. He uses various PowerPC G3 and G4 Macs running Tiger and Leopard. Besides finding new uses for Macs and other tech, Dan enjoys writing (fantasy novel series in the works), is an avid gamer, and a member of Sony's Gamer Advisor Panel. You can read more of Dan Bashur's work on, where he contributes regular articles about the PSP, classic gaming, and ways you can use Sony gaming hardware with your Mac.

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