No New Mac Pro in 2018

Rather surprisingly, Apple had TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino back to Apple for a story that just released today. The title of the article is “Apple’s 2019 Mac Pro will be shaped by workflows“, with the key detail being confirmation that the new modular Mac Pro replacement for the 2013 model won’t be coming until 2019. If you need pro hardware, you have to either wait or buy an iMac Pro.

This is disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, and will surely stoke the conspiracy theories that Apple really wants to get rid of the Mac Pro and is trying to push everyone to the iMac instead. But the tone of Panzarino’s article and what it touches on with Apple’s pro scene in general suggest much more that Apple is undergoing a big reinvention within its walls; that after years of neglecting a segment of its consumers, Apple has elected to basically rebuild from the ground up.

In [the April 2017 roundtable], Apple SVP Phil Schiller acknowledged that pro customers including developers were hungry for evidence that Apple was paying attention to their needs.

“We recognize that they want to hear more from us. And so we want to communicate better with them. We want them to understand the importance they have for us, we want them to understand that we’re investing in new Macs — not only new MacBook Pros and iMacs but Mac Pros for them, we want them to know we are going to work on a display for a modular system,” Schiller said.

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today. The group is under John Ternus and works closely with the engineering organization.

Apple creating a pro team is big news, especially since it’s generally been the case that Apple moves around personnel from hardware and software projects as needed. The description of the Pro Workflow Team suggests to me this is a dedicated group, and bringing in a wide variety of pros to test this hardware is a good idea, given that one of the complaints with Apple’s current hardware is less its power and more its lack of flexibility.

Ternus promises the new Mac Pro will be tuned to current pro needs with an eye towards where tech is heading in the future, which is simultaneously promising and worrisome. There are plenty of people out there who just want the return of the “cheesegrater” Mac Pro, a paradigm of “big tower with expansion slots” where RAM, hard drives, and graphics cards were simple swaps, and even CPU upgrades didn’t require a lot of effort (I’ve done it myself.) The fact that Apple hasn’t shipped a product like that, and the talk in Panzarino’s article about Thunderbolt-connected eGPUs and iOS peripherals, suggests that’s not what they have in mind.

On Pro Mac Pricing Trends

A while back, Marco Arment wrote a piece on Mac Pro pricing trends over time. Inspired by some discussion on the MacRumors forums and the Incomparable Members Slack, I went ahead and charted all pro desktop Macs’ pricing trends since 1999. In addition, I’ve added another two lines representing the original prices in $USD adjusted for inflation to November 2017 (via CPI).

Here’s the data, pulled from EveryMac.com and the MacTracker application:

ProductLaunch dateBase PriceBase Price, Adj.High End PriceBase Price, Adj.
PowerMac G3 1,1 (B&W)Aug-99$1,599.00$2,360.41$2,999.00$4,427.05
PowerMac G4 3,1 (AGP/PCI models)Dec-99$1,599.00$2,336.63$3,499.00$5,128.31
PowerMac G4 3,3 (Digital Audio)Jul-00$1,599.00$2,282.54$3,499.00$4,994.76
PowerMac G4 3,4Jan-01$1,699.00$2,393.44$3,499.00$4,929.15
PowerMac G5 3,5 QuicksilverJul-01$1,699.00$2,361.07$3,499.00$4,862.51
PowerMac G4 3,6 MDDAug-02$1,699.00$2,319.25$3,299.00$4,503.38
PowerMac G4 3,6 (FW800)Jan-03$1,499.00$2,034.99$2,699.00$3,664.06
PowerMac G5 7,2Jun-03$1,999.00$2,684.22$2,999.00$4,027.00
PowerMac G5 7,3Jun-04$1,999.00$2,599.32$2,999.00$3,899.63
PowerMac G5 7,3 (2005)Apr-05$1,999.00$2,533.87$2,999.00$3,801.44
PowerMac G5 11,3 (Late 2005)Oct-05$1,999.00$2,475.36$3,299.00$4,085.15
Mac Pro 1,1Aug-06$2,199.00$2,660.25$3,299.00$3,990.98
Mac Pro 2,1Apr-07$2,199.00$2,624.39$3,999.00$4,772.60
Mac Pro 3,1Jan-08$2,299.00$2,686.62$4,399.00$5,140.69
Mac Pro 4,1Mar-09$2,499.00$2,897.98$5,899.00$6,804.11
Mac Pro 5,1Jul-10$2,499.00$2,827.50$6,199.00$7,015.35
Mac Pro 5,1 (2012 bump)Jun-12$2,499.00$2,686.21$6,199.00$6,663.39
Mac Pro 6,1Dec-13$2,999.00$3,174.27$6,499.00$6,878.82
Mac Pro 6,1 (2017 price cuts)Apr-17$2,999.00$3,025.31$4,999.00$5,042.85

And here’s the resulting graph:

Pro desktop Mac prices 1999-2017

The results show that Arments’s observation that Mac Pro prices have steadily increased over time actually holds for the pro desktop lineup in the modern era, although factoring in the real dollar cost with inflation shows that it’s not as steady a slope as the unadjusted dollars would suggest. Starting in 1999 with the release of the Blue & White PowerMac G3, which had an entry-level price of $1599 (or $2360 today), the entry-level cost of a new PowerMac and later Mac Pro slowly but steadily drifted upward, to $2999 with the release of the Mac Pro 6,1 at the end of 2013. The only significant model to buck the trend is in 2003, when Apple released the PowerMac G4 3,6 (or FW 800 Mirrored-Drive Doors) at a record-low $1499 price, just six months before it was replaced by the far-more-capable PowerMac G5.

Another interesting observation—the very end of the G4 era and the G5 era is interesting in the price difference between lowest and highest processor SKUs was at its smallest; the delta has since ballooned in the Intel era.

When considering the price of the upcoming Mac Pro, it’s worth considering the wider context of the pro desktop line. When the PowerMac G4 hit the scene, Apple was at the height of its famous four-product matrix. The iMac retailed for $999, a mere $600 dollar difference to jump from Apple’s cheapest consumer computer to their cheapest pro machine. That’s a far cry from the $2500 difference today to get you from the lowly and neglected Mac mini to the less lowly but similarly neglected Mac Pro.