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Apple Scales Back High-End Mac Pro Plans, Weighs Production Move To Asia

Tuesday December 20, 2022. 02:00 PM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg, written by Mark Gurman: The new high-end Mac Pro with Apple silicon is behind schedule, and you can blame changes to the company's chip and manufacturing plans. When Apple announced plans in June 2020 to transition away from Intel processors to Mac chips designed in-house, the company said the move would take about two years. Now at the tail end of 2022, it's clear that Apple has missed its self-imposed deadline for completing the shift. In addition to not offering a Mac Pro with Apple silicon, the company still only sells the high-end version of the Mac mini desktop in an Intel flavor. While Apple has said little to nothing about its future Mac desktops or the reasons behind the holdup, the company continues to actively test an all-new Mac Pro and an M2 Pro-based Mac mini to replace the remaining Intel models. Apple had aimed to introduce the new Mac Pro by now, but the high-end machine has been held up for a number of reasons, including multiple changes to its features, a significant shift in the company's plans for high-end processors and a potential relocation of its manufacturing.

When Apple first set out to build a replacement for the Intel Mac Pro, it planned a machine with a processor based on the original M1 chip. The approach called for two main configurations: one chip equal to the power of two M1 Max processors -- the highest-end MacBook Pro chip -- and another equal to four M1 Max components combined. The dual M1 Max chip ended up first launching in the Mac Studio as the M1 Ultra, and Apple decided to push back the Mac Pro to the M2 generation. The company then planned for the Mac Pro to come in two configurations: an M2 Ultra version and a double-M2 Ultra that I've dubbed the 'M2 Extreme.' The M2 Ultra chip is destined to have some serious specifications for professional users, including up to 24 CPU cores, 76 graphics cores and the ability to top out the machine with at least 192 gigabytes of memory. An M2 Extreme chip would have doubled that to 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores. But here's the bad news: The company has likely scrapped that higher-end configuration, which may disappoint Apple's most demanding users -- the photographers, editors and programmers who prize that kind of computing power.

The company made the decision because of both the complexity and cost of producing a processor that is essentially four M2 Max chips fused together. It also will help Apple and partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. save chip-production resources for higher-volume machines. Moreover, there are concerns about how much consumers are willing to spend. Using the highest-end M1 Ultra chip pushes the Mac Studio up to $5,000 -- only $1,000 less than the current Mac Pro. That's $3,000 more than the M1 Max Mac Studio. Based on Apple's current pricing structure, an M2 Extreme version of a Mac Pro would probably cost at least $10,000 -- without any other upgrades -- making it an extraordinarily niche product that likely isn't worth the development costs, engineering resources and production bandwidth it would require. Instead, the Mac Pro is expected to rely on a new-generation M2 Ultra chip (rather than the M1 Ultra) and will retain one of its hallmark features: easy expandability for additional memory, storage and other components.

Gurman says the Mac Mini update 'will come in regular M2 and M2 Pro variations, while new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are arriving early next year with M2 Pro and M2 Max options.' A high-end iMac Pro with Apple silicon is also in the works, 'but that machine has suffered internal delays for similar reasons as the Mac Pro,' he notes.

In addition, Gurman says Apple is 'working on multiple new external monitors, including an update to the Pro Display XDR that was launching alongside the Intel Mac Pro in 2019.' The new monitors will also include Apple silicon.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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