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Tuesday November 1, 2011 11:42 am

Apple thinking of discontinuing the Mac Pro

Posted by Andru Edwards - Categories: Apple, PC / Laptop, Rumors

Apple Mac Pro

Apple is rumored to be mulling whether to continue investing in its Mac Pro line of workstations beyond 2011 with executives at the company reportedly agreeing that "Mac Pro's days ... [are] inevitably numbered."

Sales of its workstations have dropped off to the point that continuing to make them is "no longer a particularly profitable operation" for Apple, while improvements to the company's consumer line of Mac products has decreased the performance gap with the professional-targeted Mac Pro line, according to a report by Apple Insider.

In fact, Apple management has been "in limbo" over whether to invest further in its Mac Pro products since this past May, the Apple watcher reported Monday, citing "sources familiar with the matter."

Apple does have a Mac Pro revision in the works, according to Apple Insider, but it's unclear whether those new workstations will "see the light of day." The company would likely build any new Mac Pros around Intel's powerful new Sandy Bridge-class desktop chips coming out soon, but it's another fertile partnership with Intel—the; development of the high-speed, dual-protocol Thunderbolt I/O technology that's now part of several of Apple's Mac products—that; could "ultimately allow other, more popular members of the Mac product family to assume the vast majority of the roles that once required the Mac Pro's flexibility and architecture."

The idea is that since one of the Mac Pro's key features is its internal PCI Express expansion slots, which Thunderbolt essentially duplicates, only more effectively, slightly beefed up iMacs and Mac Minis could come to replace the workstation in even professional work environments.

Apple Insider also theorizes that the decreasing role of desktops and workstations in Apple's Mac portfolio—let; alone in the context of its growing and profitable lineup of iOS-based mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad—has; the company questioning if it wants to keep building computer towers. Notebooks like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro now make up nearly three-quarters of Apple's total Mac sales.

Yet even if Thunderbolt makes iMacs and Mac Minis capable of replicating Mac Pro performance in terms of storage and peripherals via lightning quick connections to external drives, displays, and other expansion devices, that isn't all a legitimate workstation brings to the table in terms of pure computing horsepower.

As Apple Insider notes, Apple wouldn't be able to outfit its popular consumer form factors with the most powerful central processors and graphics cards as it's able to do with the Mac Pro. Those are the sort of professional-class workstations used by the graphic designers and animators Apple has long prided itself in serving. Even if supplying such folks with the computing power they demand isn't as profitable as it once was, it seems likely Apple would only exit that market under duress.

Apple did not respond to a request to comment on this story.

This article, written by Damon Poeter, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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