What went wrong with Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro?

Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro has been a disaster for the company with professional users. What went wrong and can Apple fix it?

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Apple

When the history of Apple is written, the 2013 Mac Pro will be considered a major disaster for the company. There’s no way to sugarcoat this fact to make it more palatable, and the company now has no other choice but to release a killer new Mac Pro as quickly as possible.

So what went wrong with the 2013 Mac Pro? Well according to Marco Arment, plenty. In a fascinating post he takes a look at how Apple screwed up with the 2013 Mac Pro and what the company needs to do to fix it.

Marco writes on his blog:

A lot went wrong with the 2013 Mac Pro. Some of the leading factors that led to its failure:

It was more expensive than its predecessor, while also removing major features that many of its customers still needed. (The 2016 MacBook Pro has the same problem.)

It was designed to accommodate exactly two GPUs with relatively low heat output each, but CPU-heavy users didn’t need the second GPU, and GPU-heavy users needed hotter-running GPUs (and often just one really hot one).3 So the only configuration it was offered in was either overspecced (and overpriced) or underpowered for most Mac Pro customers.

Less than a year after its release, it missed the desktop Retina revolution started by the 5K iMac, and it was beaten handily in single-threaded performance by a CPU generation that Apple never updated it to use.

The last factor was poor timing that could’ve been fixed with regular updates, but the first two are simply major design flaws by making the wrong choices for this product.

More at Marco.org

As I read Marco’s post, I kept nodding my head while thinking “yep, very true.” The reasons he listed above are why I went with a 5K iMac instead of a Mac Pro. I was initially excited about the 2013 Mac Pro until I saw what it offered for its high price.

But back then I figured that Apple would update the Mac Pro at some point, and then it might be a better buy than it had been with the initial model. I had no idea in 2013 that the company would simply ignore the Mac Pro and allow it to languish without any updates until 2017.

Frankly, if you had told me that Apple would do that, I probably would have said you were crazy. Nobody expected the Mac Pro to have the same hardware for 3.5 years, at the very least I expected a yearly refresh of the CPU, etc.

The new Mac Pro and gamers

Marco goes on to mention what Mac Pro customers need and want, including gamers:

Mac gamers need a high-speed/low-core-count CPU, the best single gaming GPU possible, and VR hardware support.

As someone who plays games on his Mac, I would love it if the new Mac Pro offered a configuration that was optimized for gaming. Believe it or not, there are a fair amount of Mac gamers out there but Apple has never bothered to really address the gaming market.

Compare Apple’s reticence about gaming with Windows computers, and the contrast couldn’t be starker. There are tons of options for gamers who use Windows computers, but almost nothing for Mac gamers with the exception of those who build a Hackintosh.

So I would be quite excited if a new Mac Pro finally offered Mac gamers a truly modular system that provided top-notch gaming performance and that could be upgraded easily. Such a system would be considered the Holy Grail for Mac gamers.

I would certainly consider replacing my current 5K iMac with a new Mac Pro if Apple offered a model that worked well for gaming. Fortunately, I'm in no hurry to part with my 2014 5K iMac, it still has a lot of life left in it.

Apple has a long way to go to fix the Mac Pro mess

One thing is clear in all of this, the next Mac Pro has to deliver the goods for all pro users. Apple’s screw up with the 2013 Mac Pro has damaged the company’s reputation in a big way, and a half-assed version of the Mac Pro isn’t going to cut it.

Remember that many Mac Pro users are either using older pre-2013 machines that can be easily upgraded (the cheese grater Mac Pros) or they have already bailed and moved to Windows. This is what happens when you sell a pro computer that doesn’t meet the needs of its customer base.

So Apple needs to hit a home run with the next Mac Pro, or what’s left of the company’s reputation with pro users might be damaged beyond all repair.

I particularly don't want a new Mac Pro with "cutting edge industrial design" or any of the usual claptrap Apple puts out. Just give me a powerful and customizable tower that I can upgrade when I want. It's not rocket science, plenty of other companies offer such machines.

But I have my doubts about Apple being willing to produce such a machine. The company has been utterly clueless for the last 3.5 years, who knows if they finally understand what pro users need. So I'm taking the idea of a new Mac Pro with a huge grain of salt.

While I was pleased to hear Apple admit that it had made a mistake with the Mac Pro, I am not willing to take them at their word. I’ll believe that Apple has learned its lesson when it actually ships a fantastic new Mac Pro.

Until then Apple’s words are just wind.

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