I have never owned a Mac Pro nor do I ever plan on owning one (probably, never say never). I am writing this from the perspective of a life-long PC user (which I am) who thinks very highly of Apple products (I use Macbook Pros for the Tycho live shows). I love OS X, I love Apple hardware; I just prefer PC as my desktop environment when creating music, design, and video. I don’t have any great explanation, I just do. But I’ve always envied those shiny aluminum behemoths lurking in the corners of my friend’s studios. The interior of the Pros was always what did it for me: that blue color on the PCBs, the brushed finish on the capacitors, the thermal compartments. So I too was waiting on this new machine, if only to see what Apple would come up with next.
Considering I’m not a Mac Pro user it’s not really my place to be thrilled or disappointed, I guess I’d just say I’m surprised. This was a radical step in a new direction and for that, I applaud Apple’s stones. With their dominance in the consumer sector this could have gone two ways: The Mac Pro could have just gone away, or, with nothing to really gain or lose, they could do something completely unexpected and truly innovate. They chose the latter and I think it’s a great thing for the PC industry as a whole.
I would have said let’s put aesthetics aside and just discuss the specs on this machine, but it seems the two are inexorably linked, which depending on how you view this, could be a good or bad thing. On the one hand it’s compact and sleek, on the other it seems very proprietary, further limiting the already limited list of compatible hardware. But don’t forget what’s around back: six Thunderbolt 2 ports. The first thing I thought when Thunderbolt 1 was announced was “here comes modular computing”. The first thing I thought when I saw the 2013 Mac Pro and the Thunderbolt 2 announcement was “here is the face of modular computing”. A compact central computing element with an external interconnect protocol capable of PCIx+ speeds. This opens some very large doors in terms of upgrading and/or easily and quickly adjusting your system for changing needs.
The form factor is incredibly efficient (take a look at the Mac Pro site at Apple for more on the unified thermal architecture, brilliant). For someone who transports a very large PC ATX case to and from various studios, the idea of a compact, tubular enclosure like this is a dream. I could fit this thing in a messenger bag or a small flight case. For tour it could be great too; mount two of these horizontally in a flight case so that when the case caps are removed the intake and exhaust are exposed. I’ve seen the old Mac Pros mounted two-up in 19″ flight cases on stage before, it’s a huge footprint, this would be a welcome change for many a stage manager / tech I’m sure. As I’m writing this I’m starting to convince myself this might make a good next desktop, we’ll see.
All in all I think it’s a beautiful piece of engineering with the specs to back it up, but what do I, a lowly PC user, know? What do you current Pro users think? Does this scare you? If so, why? What do you think of the look? Are you going to get one?