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Apple's Mac Pro users clamor for hardware upgrade

Agam Shah | March 15, 2012
Ardent users are clamoring for quick upgrades to Apple's Mac Pro, while an unstable hardware timetable for the high-end desktop has raised concerns about the company's commitment to professional users.

Ardent users are clamoring for quick upgrades to Apple's Mac Pro, while an unstable hardware timetable for the high-end desktop has raised concerns about the company's commitment to professional users.

The Mac Pro was last upgraded in July 2010, when Apple announced models with up to 12 processing cores based on Intel's Xeon server chips. Mac Pro users now want the models upgraded to Intel's recently announced Xeon E5-2600 chips to keep up with the increased horsepower required for tasks like video editing.

Apple's popularity has surged in the last few years with iconic consumer products like the iPad and iPhone and shipments of Mac computers are also growing. But Mac Pro desktops, which are largely aimed at creative professionals, are quickly becoming obsolete. Some users have moved over to iMacs with the latest Intel Core processors, which in some cases outperforms Mac Pros.

As Apple gravitates to the consumer market, the lack of a Mac Pro upgrade has also raised questions about the company's hardware and software commitment to professional users. Apple killed the Xserve server in late 2010 because the product sold in low quantities. Mac Pros ultimately took on the additional responsibility of being servers.

But users hope the top-end Mac Pro desktops live on and get at least one more upgrade to Intel's latest Xeon E5-2600 chips, which have up to eight processor cores and PCI-Express 3.0 support. A dual-socket Mac Pro based on the new chips with 16 processors could potentially outperform iMacs and store more data.

Apple has not announced plans for a new Mac Pro. The company does not comment on future products, a company spokeswoman said.

Apple still has a big audience of creative professionals waiting for a Mac Pro upgrade, said Gary Huff, founder of Rusty Auto Productions in Austin, Texas.

But with the iOS infrastructure taking preference and Mac Pro perhaps a smaller portion of overall product sales, Huff wondered whether Apple's once proud legacy of serving creative professionals is as necessary today to the company's bottom line.

"One of the questions is do they care about the professional market," Huff said. "Personally I hope to refresh the Mac Pro. I want to buy one."

Mac Pros are widely used for multimedia creation and editing with software tools from Apple, Adobe Systems and Avid. The hardware flexibility provided by Mac Pro is valued by users, who can get more storage and swap hardware and internal components such as graphics cards.

Users also want the Mac Pro to be upgraded for the Thunderbolt connector technology, which will provide expansion capabilities for peripherals such as external storage devices and monitors. Thunderbolt is already available in Mac desktops and laptops and supports the DisplayPort protocol for displays and PCI-Express 2.0 for peripherals such as external hard drives.

 

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