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In a somewhat surprising move, Apple has quietly discontinued its high-end iMac, the iMac Pro, without any direct replacement in sight. Only the base model is now available from the Apple Store, and only “While supplies last.”
Apple first unveiled the iMac Pro back in June 2017 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, dubbing it “the most powerful Mac ever” — a boast that was quickly borne out by actual benchmarks. However, it wouldn’t be until December of that year that the $4,999 Mac was actually released to the public.
From its inception, however, the iMac Pro was a slightly strange entry in Apple’s lineup — an ultra-powerful “Mac Pro” class machine that was available in configurations of up to 18 cores, yet squeezed into the same all-in-one design of Apple’s classic iMac.
For the kinds of professionals who were the target audience for it, the new iMac Pro was a mixed bag. The raw processing power it offered was certainly impressive, especially coming at a time when Apple’s Mac Pro had not seen an update since 2013, yet the iMac style worked against many typical “Pro” uses for the machine; although secondary displays could be added, users were stuck paying for a built-in display that they may not have wanted, and of course, there was no room for adding expansion cards.
While some feared that the iMac Pro represented the way forward for Apple’s professional-grade Macs, especially after the similarly constraining “trash can” Mac Pro of 2013, Apple worked to assuage those fears from the very beginning; in the same press release that heralded the arrival of the iMac Pro, Apple announced that it was “working on a completely redesigned, next-generation Mac Pro” for more serious pro customers who needed ultimate performance in a “modular, upgradeable design.” Of course, we found out exactly what that was about a year and a half later when Apple unveiled the insanely powerful 2019 Mac Pro.
A Stop-Gap Solution?
In a sense, this left the role of the iMac Pro something of an open question. Apple had never released a system like this before, so was the iMac Pro simply a stop-gap solution to help tide users over while waiting for the “real” Mac Pro, or was Apple introducing a new lineup in its own right?
While the iMac Pro received a modest refresh alongside the new 2020 iMac last summer, it basically just bumped the standard configuration to a 10-core Xeon CPU, with absolutely no other changes. In fact, other than the more powerful workstation-class processor, the iMac Pro began to look even more pale next to the improvements Apple brought to the standard 27-inch iMac, which also includes a 10-core Intel Core i9 CPU option.
Meanwhile, the 2020 iMac also gained one other feature that had been previously been exclusive to its Pro sibling in the family: Apple’s T2 chip. All in all, this brought the standard iMac to the level where many began questioning the reasons for the iMac Pro to even exist.
Now it seems like Apple has answered these questions, basically acknowledging that the iMac Pro was little more than a flash in the pan — an interim solution designed to fill a need that no longer exists in the era of more powerful iMacs and of course Apple’s “true” Pro machine — the behemoth Mac Pro.
The End of the Line?
First noted by 9to5Mac, last Friday Apple removed all the configure-to-order options from the iMac Pro, leaving only the baseline $4,999 model available, adding that it would only be there “While supplies last.” While several other versions remain available at third-party retailers, it’s safe to say that these are simply because they haven’t been sold off yet.
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the iMac Pro is being phased out in its current form — it’s now the oldest Mac that Apple is still selling in any form — the timing is particularly interesting, since many expected that Apple would at least wait until the iMac made the transition to Apple Silicon. There was also a prevailing theory that a higher-end Apple Silicon iMac Pro would replace the current model, showcasing the performance of whatever Apple’s next high-end M-series chip ends up being.
Of course, this doesn’t rule out this possibility entirely, but it seems much more likely that Apple will simply push its 27-inch iMac into that higher-end territory, much like we already saw with last summer’s update, and save the “pro” moniker for the Mac Pro, which will almost certainly see an Apple Silicon treatment sometime in the next year or so.
However, the timing could also suggest that a new Apple Silicon iMac may arrive sooner than we’ve thought — this could be a matter of Apple clearing the stage for the next big thing.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that many serious professionals — actual production houses to which the Mac Pro is targeted — aren’t ready for Apple Silicon yet. Studios and other pros that rely on Macs for their bread and butter aren’t early adopters — they won’t take any risks on a new CPU architecture until it’s had time to prove itself. This is likely why Apple is in no hurry to release a new Apple Silicon Mac Pro, and in the very least we suspect that the Intel-based Mac Pro may continue to exist for years to come, even after a newer M-series model comes onto the scene.