Apple confirms it's redesigning the Mac Pro, upgrading the iMac and building a pro monitor

Unusually for the typically secretive company, Apple has discussed its future plans for its pro hardware – including the Mac Pro and iMac.

The Mac Pro isn’t dead, Apple has confirmed. Speaking to journalists this week, the Mac maker has let on about its future plans for the Mac Pro – as well as releasing a minor update to the shiny compact workstation. The conversation wasn’t confined to the Mac Pro – with Apple’s Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi also confirming that new iMacs are coming later this year, and that Apple is working on a professional-level monitor, its first since it killed the ageing Thunderbolt Display last summer.

The 'refreshed' Mac Pro doesn’t have any new components – but you do get higher-end options as standard. We only have US pricing currently, but Apple will be providing us with UK prices shortly.

The first of the two ‘new’ models has a 6-core Intel Xeon e5 v3 processor, 16GB of RAM and two AMD FirePro D500 graphics chips for $2,999. The second has an 8-core Intel Xeon e5 v3 processor, 16GB of RAM and two AMD FirePro D700s for $3,999. Based on previous pricing we expect UK pricing to be £2,999 and £3,899 respectively (blame Brexit – also the UK pricing includes VAT, the US one exclude taxes).

You'll soon be able to buy them here.

This is better value than before, but it’s still a generation behind what you can get from PC rivals like Dell’s Precision T7910. The Mac Pro has a Xeon e5 v3 processor and 1888MHz DDR3 RAM – newer PC workstations have a newer, more powerful v4 chips and faster DDR4 2400MHz RAM. The D500 and D700 graphics chips have also been surpassed by cards from both AMD and Nvidia.

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Even Thunderbolt – the fast connection pioneered by Apple – is an older version. The Mac Pro has Thunderbolt 2. Newer workstations have Thunderbolt 3.

This update to the Mac Pro is clearly just a stop-gap. Apple acknowledges that the Mac Pro’s elegant, compact design was also its downfall – as it didn’t allow for the flexibility of configuration that a lot of pros wanted.

"The way the system is architected, it just doesn’t lend itself to significant reconfiguration for somebody who might want a different combination of GPU,” John Ternus, Apple’s VP of hardware engineering told TechCrunch. "That’s when we realized we had to take a step back and completely re-architect what we’re doing and build something that enables us to do these quick, regular updates and keep it current and keep it state of the art, and also allow a little more in terms of adaptability to the different needs of the different pro customers.”

To fix this, Apple is redesigning the Mac Pro from scratch.

“We are completely rethinking the Mac Pro,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing told Buzzfeed.

They’re in the early stages of the design process – with a new model not coming out until 2018.

The iMac continues to be successful, and one of the reasons for that it seems is that the thing you’re looking at most of the time – the screen – is also elegantly designed and Apple branded. The same often isn’t true for the Mac Pro, as most pro-level monitors have an aesthetic that’s more functional than beautiful.

So Apple is creating a new Pro monitor – which by the time it launches will be the company’s first display release in seven years.

“As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a Pro display as well,” Schiller told TechCrunch. "Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.”

Schiller also confirmed that the monitor won’t be a touch display – so there’s no chance of an Apple version of the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD or Dell Canvas it seems.

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Apple's SVP of software engineering, Craig Federighi, also confirmed that Apple will release new iMacs later this year, giving no details. This is hardly surprising – though we were expecting them sooner rather than later to coincide with Intel’s recently released 'Kaby Lake’ Core processors.

The iMac was mentioned as Apple says that a proportion of its pro audience will prefer the iMac to the Mac Pro – so is designing the Mac Pro for those who need higher performance and greater configuration options that are possible with the all-in-one.

What’s perhaps most surprising about the new is that the famously secretive Apple is talking semi-openly about its future plans.

However, if you look back over the last two decades, this happens every few years as Apple’s attempts to assuage the concerns of its pro users that it’s only interested in selling iPhones and other consumer kit – and attempts to stop them ditching Macs for PC workstations, or its pro software tools such as Final Cut Pro or the barely-remembered-except-by-old-VFX-artists Shake. Experience tell us this won’t last, and some users will stay and some will go. But hopefully the Mac Pro won’t of the way of Shake, as desktop workstations benefit from strong competition – and someone with their eye on the aesthetics of case design.