The next Mac Pro: The facts and the rumors ahead of WWDC 2019

Though Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on Monday, has an explicit focus on software, this year there are lofty expectations for an appearance by one of the company’s long-neglected hardware products: the Mac Pro.

Apple hasn’t updated its flagship desktop computer since 2013, apart from a minor spec bump in 2017. That’s six long years during which competitors including Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft have leveraged new processors and graphics cards as well as more modern cooling technology and case designs to make inroads in the high-end desktop market for creatives that Apple used to dominate so absolutely.

But unlike so many Apple products that live in rumor limbo until a surprise update pops out one day — thank you, iPad Mini and iPod Touch — we actually know that a new Mac Pro is coming. And according to Apple, it’s coming in 2019.

To that end, here’s everything we know about the new Mac Pro — and the rumors that are buzzing around on the eve of Monday’s WWDC keynote. Note that Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Confirmed: A new Mac Pro is coming soon

That 2013 refresh of the Mac Pro moved the most powerful Mac you could buy from the so-called “cheese grater” design of years past to the “trash can” design. Despite the unfortunate nickname, it was a smaller, snazzier look. But that design was a dead-end in a world where pros needed high-powered — and high temperature — graphic cards and GPUs more than big old CPUs to work their graphical magic. “I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will,” Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi told a group of journalists in April 2017.

But that mea culpa came with a promise: The company was working on a big refresh of the computer. And last year, we heard a seemingly firm promise that a new Mac Pro would arrive in 2019. “We want to be transparent and communicate openly with our pro community so we want them to know that the Mac Pro is a 2019 product,” Mac hardware product marketing director Tom Boger told Techhnews a year later, in April 2018. (In the meantime, Apple had delivered the iMac Pro, a powerful all-in-one machine that it debuted at WWDC 2017 and shipped in December of that year.)


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Well, 2019 is just about half over. We expect an event in September that will be dedicated to the iPhone 11, which would not be the best venue for the debut of a new, niche computer. Holding an additional event, perhaps in October, to introduce the revamped Mac Pro is possible. For now, however, WWDC appears to be the best near term opportunity to show off a new desktop.

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Read: The 2019 Apple Mac Pro has to look backward to move forward

Rumor: Apple will introduce a new Mac Pro at WWDC 

monkey

And it wants you to burst with creativity.


Apple

There is a precedent for hardware revelations at WWDC. After all, the iMac Pro was launched at the show in 2017

As such, my colleague Patrick Holland has analyzed the invitations that Apple sent out to media for this year’s WWDC, determining that the “artistic monkey” illustration could be evidence of a “creativity” theme that presages a new computer for creatives: the 2019 Mac Pro.

(Vaguely) confirmed: The new Mac Pro will have a modular design

acer-modular-desktop-2015-2.jpg

Windows desktop PCs have traditionally been much easier to upgrade than Macs.


Techhnews

In 2017, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that a new Mac Pro would be “by definition, a modular system.” Ostensibly, this would mean that its components could be more easily swapped in and out by users. Of course, this is not a trait that’s characteristic of most modern Apple devices.

These days, “modular” may mean that you can attach an external GPU box. But it wasn’t that long ago that Apple gave us the Power Mac G4, which had its motherboard mounted to a fold-out side “door,” allowing easy access to expansion cards, memory and drive bays — so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Rumor: It will debut alongside a new 6K monitor

apple-thunderbolt-display.jpg

Apple’s Thunderbolt Display.


Apple

According to an investor note by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is planning to release a new 31-inch 6K monitor that features a Mini LED-esque backlight design. Kuo’s report gives new life to a 2017 comment by Apple executive Phil Schiller about the company’s work on a “pro display.” If true, the new 6K monitor would be the company’s first since discontinuing its Thunderbolt Display in 2016.

All will be revealed on Monday

Of course, Apple could undo its promise to debut the Mac Pro this year. After all, the company has pulled some distinctly un-Apple moves recently. After announcing its AirPower wireless charging mat in 2017, and missing a shipping deadline in 2018, it cancelled it altogether in March after determining that the product didn’t meet the company’s “high standards.” And the company missed the 2017 launch window for the HomePod, pushing it past the key holiday buying season into February 2018.

Still, next week seems like the perfect time to unveil this product. Either way, we should know more about the Mac Pro’s future by the end of Monday. Stay tuned.

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