How Much Does the Mac Pro Need an Upgrade? The Infographic

Here's a visual look at the slow-paced evolution of Apple's professional desktop computer.

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Attendees at Apple's WWDC check out the first Mac Pro computer on August 7, 2006

J. Glenn Künzler of MacTrast notes that Apple resellers are running low on the entry-level version of the Mac Pro, Apple’s professional desktop computer. As he notes, it could be a sign that a replacement is imminent — possibly in time to be announced during the keynote at the company’s WWDC conference on June 10.

The Mac Pro could surely use a major upgrade. Though Apple updated it slightly last year by adding a speedier Intel Xeon processor, the machine has evolved very little over the years and now feels downright archaic. It’s the only Mac without Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports; the case is largely similar to that of Apple’s Power Mac G5 model from 2003, the era before Intel Macs. Rumors have understandably cropped up for a while now that the model might not be long for this world, although more recently the scuttlebutt has been that the Pro might not only live on but also be assembled exclusively in the U.S.

I knew that the Mac Pro was famous for not changing, so I decided to compare its evolution with that of other Mac models — and I ended up creating an infographic comparison.

You can debate when any particular Mac has gotten a meaningful revision (instead of receiving a less significant bump); for this chat, I counted a transition as occurring whenever Apple chose to update the “model identifier” associated with a particular line. I began the chart on Aug. 7, 2006 — the day the Mac Pro was announced — and continued on until today. Each colored bar represents one generation in that product line. (There’s a lot of data crammed in there, so if you spot any errors, please be kind.)

As you can see, the 34 months that have passed since the last major Mac Pro update are an eternity compared with the pace of change for other models:

[image] Apple Mac Revisions

Now, you can make a case that the Mac Pro should change far more slowly than other Macs: the system, which starts at $2,500, is aimed at businessy applications like desktop publishing and typically gets bought by companies that want to hold onto their computers for years and care about general robustness more than cutting-edge features. They might even have preferred to stick with trusty old FireWire, which the current Mac Pro still has, over its still emerging replacement, Thunderbolt.

But whether it’s at WWDC or later this year, the Mac Pro does feel like it’s heading for a moment of truth. The odds are that it’s about to either evolve — at least a little bit — or die. Any predictions or preferences?