While listening to the latest Stacktrace podcast today during an indoor bike training session (nothing like Apple Tech and a high heart rate!), the guys were discussing the latest rumors from Mark Gurman that broke a few days ago:

A high-end configuration of the Mac Pro, a model with 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores, has been canceled. Instead, Apple plans to release a version with the M2 Ultra, making it unclear — beyond the machine’s expandability — why most users would buy it over the cheaper and smaller Mac Studio. In another disappointment, the new Mac Pro will look identical to the 2019 model. It will also lack one key feature from the Intel version: user-upgradeable RAM. That’s because the memory is tied directly to the M2 Ultra’s motherboard. Still, there are two SSD storage slots and for graphics, media and networking cards.

Gui mentions in the podcast that an upgrade path from the Mac Pro of today, and the one this might be in the future, could be an “in place” upgrade program, where users swap their current Mac Pro logic board with a new Apple Silicon one.

That’s an intriguing idea.

Consider what Apple has launched over the last ~4 years.

With the last Mac Pro refresh in 2019, the Afterburner card1:

In effect, this means Apple could update how Afterburner is configured to improve it in the future, to support new codecs and to improve performance for existing versions.

In the spring of 2022, self-service repair came to life.

Enabling customers who are experienced with the complexities of repairing electronic devices to complete repairs.

Later this year the program will also include manuals, parts, and tools to perform repairs on Mac computers with Apple silicon.

And considering what a user can upgrade with today’s Mac Pro:

  • RAM
  • SSD
  • Expandable with PCIe cards

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see an offering such as this:

  1. The enclosure of the Mac Pro remains the same.
  2. A new logic board, with an Apple Silicon system-on-chip (SoC) is released.
  3. You can opt to buy only the logic board, or a complete system.
  4. If purchasing only the logic board, Apple or an Authorized Service Provider must perform the install (at first).
  5. Eventually, the Self-Service Repair Program allows anyone to do this.

If there is one place in Apple’s lineup they could afford to offer this amount of customizability, it’s the Mac Pro. The steps they’ve already taken (Afterburner, self-service repair) could be steps on a path towards this.

Or, maybe we just see a boring Mac Pro update. Same enclosure, different chip, less flexibility to upgrade RAM. I hope not, as that would be quite boring and a bit of a one-step forward, one-step back situation.

  1. Granted, I don’t believe Apple ever offered an reprogramming of this card. So while it could be reprogrammed to do other things without having to buy a whole new card…it, uh, never has been. ↩︎