In London last week to speak at a video games industry conference, I found myself in Harrods, the famously extravagant department store with everything from gourmet food to expensive suits to collectible coffee table books the size of actual coffee tables.
Naturally, I had to check out the technology section, a long series of corridors filled with high-end gear, from £700 David Lynch Edition Bang & Olufsen speakers to a £1,200 Alligator skin iphone case.
In the dedicated Apple nook of the store, I saw an old friend that I had not expected to. Right next to all the relatively new iPad Pros and Apple Watches, I saw a prominently displayed Mac Pro desktop. It looked just as it had in 2013, when that bold design launched, and yes, Harrods was selling it at its full price ($3,000 and up).
Long before butterfly keyboards and Touch Bars,. The design was radical for 2013, coming after years of traditional desktop towers. At the time, I found the change bold and forward-looking, but in hindsight, it was too focused on aesthetics and not enough on functionality.
With extremely limited upgradability compared to the old tower design, the Mac Pro could not keep up with thein an evolving world of 4K/8K video, HDR photography and VR/AR development.
At the time, I said, “Apple’sis a stunningly fresh take on the desktop computer. But it’s probably not for you.” One reason was that nearly any expansion would have to happen via externally attached Thunderbolt devices, and even in casual use, all those cables quickly added up to a cluttered workspace.
From my original review: “Components are built around something Apple calls a unified thermal core. A small lock switch is moved to the unlocked position, and the entire outer sleeve of the system lifts off, exposing the interior… the idea being promulgated here is that your expandability should flow outward, not inward.”
But it was that very thermal core that prevented the Mac Pro from keeping up customers’ needs, especially for graphics power. By 2017, the company had essentially thrown up its hands in the matter,, but then shifting the conversation to a completely different future version of the Mac Pro desktop that would trade the now 6-year-old design for something new and modular.
We’ve been waiting ever since, and in the meantime, Apple execs have dropped a handful of hints, most centered on a “not now,” “not yet,” “maybe next year,” message. An upgraded all-in-one desktop, called the iMac Pro, has attempted to fill some of that marketplace hole, but that system has similar expandability limitations and is also based on a very mature iMac design (plus you’re stuck with a computer and display built into a single unit).
This week’s WWDC keynote may be where that wait ends. While the Harrods sales staff may not have read into it yet, theat least making a preliminary appearance at Monday’s keynote.
Follow along with us at our Apple WWDC 2019 keynote liveblog and video stream, starting Monday, June 3, 9:30 a.m. PT.