Is the New Mac Pro the Next Cube?

I must admit to having Mac Pro lust for the new Late 2013 Mac Pro that Apple has promised to deliver “later this year”. From its radical styling and cutting edge features to its sheer power, this Mac in a black can is definitely lustworthy.

That said, I have to wonder if Apple has really thought this one through. The new Mac Pro has no built-in hard drive and no way to install one. It’s completely dependent on SSD – part of what will make it so “wicked fast” when it finally arrives.

But until now, every Mac designed for the pro market, starting with the Mac II in 1987, has had room for one or more hard drives. Inside the computer. With the new model, you’ll have to use external drives.

This isn’t unprecedented. The earliest Macs had no built-in hard drives, and it wasn’t until the 1986 Mac Plus that Macs even had a drive bus fast enough for hard drives. From that point forward, almost every Mac was designed to support external drives.

Power Mac G4 CubeThe last time Apple delivered a Mac with less expansion options than the typical business buyer wanted, it bombed. The Power Macintosh G4 Cube had a built-in optical drive and an internal hard drive, both missing from the 2013 Mac Pro, but no expansion slots at all.

In contrast to the new Mac Pro, which has all its ports on the back of the computer, the Cube had all of its ports on the bottom of the computer. With the computer encased in Lucite and almost appearing to be floating on air, this meant every cable was visible and you had to lift up or tip over the computer to connect or disconnect cables.

Steve Jobs loved the Cube, and it was a beautiful design, but Apple’s customers were far more interested in bang for the buck and expansion options, so the Cube floundered for a year before it was discontinued.

Since then, every pro desktop Mac has had at least three expansion slots, much more than the Cube’s two internal drive bays, and significant memory expansion options.

I am hoping for the best, that the sheer power of the Late 2013 Mac Pro will make it the computer to have for power users, because the Cube showed us that people aren’t going to buy a computer just for its awesome styling.

Do you think the new Mac Pro will fly or be Apple’s next flop?

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10 thoughts on “Is the New Mac Pro the Next Cube?

  1. Every model that has come out has had the monkier “wicked fast” applied to it. It is only “wicked fast” until the next version of the processor comes out, or the next bump is i/o or bus speed or hard drive construction revolution.

    The SSD storage is a problem-I cannot tell you how many times i have had my work machine upgraded with an even larger hard drive. They just pull the old one out and slide in the new one with an image on it. Not being able to do that is not going to fly with our corporate IT department. They are not going to plug in an external drive dependent on yet another power source and more cords for employees to inadvertently pull or crush.

    I think when they thought of this machine, they thought of a small business running them, not the true Pro users.

    • Ahhhh, try to be a bit objective but then some people who simply don’t know what the thunderbolt connectors are for.

      Talking about being shallow.

      • I am not being shallow at all–I basically said the same thing our vice president/IT Director told me when I showed him the specs and all. In his exact words:

        “Not going to happen here, we will stick with the tower Pros for a while. We have to run images on hard drives with every update, and it is highly doubtful we will be switching to SSD storage for quite some time. The disk based drives are larger, more dependable, and more in line with our need for inexpensive storage. External expansion will just crowd the desktop, require additional power to each workstation, and create a cable mess that will just create a larger headache for us. If we were a small business with one or two machines, that would be different. But for our 760 Mac workstations, that is not going to happen.”

        Given we are a graphics company, we are Pro users. The expandability of the towers is what our business wants. The users just want machines that work for us.

  2. This article is basically wrong from its first premise — most Pro macs have not had space for two internal hard drives. The Mac IIcx form factor was by far more popular than the Mac II and so on down the line, and expansion was by external SCSI, which is in fact far more convenient than “popping out” a hard drive by pulling out a drive. The big question for the new mac pros is the price point and thunderbolt / USB3 expansion options. If these continue to be a third party opportunity with few third parties bothering to participate then the mac pro has issues. Similarly, if the new mac pro costs the same as the old, i think it has issues. Finally, will cpu and gpu upgrades be possible? Yes, being able to stick a bunch of hard drives into the mac pro’s giant metal chassis was convenient, but price, performance, and futureproofness are more important.

    By compariosn, the cube was more expensive and less performant than tower g4s sold alongside it. Very different situation.

    • The Mac IIci was not Apple’s top-end pro model, although it was faster than the Mac IIx, which had more drive bays and twice as many expansion slots – as did the subsequent 40 MHz Mac IIfx, Apple’s next pro model.

  3. I don’t think they were considering small business, and I’m not so sure about “true Pro users.” The focus seems to have been a marketing consultants idea of a “graphics professional.”

    I have a lot of customers who ARE graphics professionals, artists, publishers, etc. For the overwhelming majority, the expandability and flexibility of the traditional MacPro is more important than the raw horsepower. The MacPro Tube has zero of the former, and almost an excess of the latter. The actual users I’m talking to are more concerned than excited. “Will the Apple USB external DVD drive work with it? What kind of cabinets would I have to get to use my existing internal drives?”

    • The new Mac Pro is actually the mythical headless Mac that pundits have been yearning for for the last 15 years. It retails at half the price that the Mac IIci retailed for. It is also less than the IIsi, the IIcx, and even the SE30. In fact, it is only $500 more than the original 128k Mac, a Mac limited to 400k of storage in the form of 3.5 inch Sony diskettes.

  4. Everyone is moving towards SSDs, so I don’t think that’s a huge problem. You can still take it out and upgrade it. What I feel like the biggest problem is, is the lack of graphics expansion. That’s the only reason people were able to use the old Pro as long as they did – upgrading gfx cards. Soldered on isn’t going to go over well.

  5. A good point on the imaging of a new hard drive, but in my experience most larger corporations would not entertain keeping critical data on the desktop machine itself, it would be on the server architecture with some form of regular backup.

    Not doing this risks losing data, but also means the machine itself can be used for what it is intended, namely number crunching rather than making the most efficient use of its internal storage.

    Or have I just been lucky(!) with the internal IT systems I’ve worked on over the years?