While Apple is expected to release an update to its line of Mac Pro towers, company executives are reportedly mulling over whether or not to discontinue the Mac Pro product line entirely.
Apple sales executives believe the Mac Pro's days are numbered, at least in its current form. The current Mac Pros are eight-pound towers that feature 12-core Intel processors that operate at 2.93 GHz, and offer up to eight terabytes of storage and plenty of ports for external devices and peripherals.
Despite the power behind the Mac Pro, Apple executives have noticed that sales of its high-end workstations have dropped off to the point that the computer is no longer profitable for the company.
In the company's quarterly earnings conference call on Oct. 18, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said that Apple notebooks make up about 74 percent of Apple's total computer sales. Mac sales also set an all-time record for the quarter with 4.89 million units sold, but desktops make up a very small portion of the company's overall sales, and the majority of desktop sales come from the iMac, not the Mac Pro.
Apple never commented on the sales figures or future of its Mac Pro line, the only computers the company still sells that come with internal PCI Express expansion slots. Since Apple released Thunderbolt connectivity to the iMac, Mac Mini and all its notebooks, it's possible that the company is developing a Thunderbolt-friendly Mac Pro.
Thunderbolt provides the same signals as PCI Express slots by using a high speed external interconnect. Thunderbolt helps users back up their computers to external devices at lightning speeds, and can also accommodate multiple external displays and peripherals. It can even connect to housings that supply PCI Express slots for expansion cards, which negates one of the only standout features of the Mac Pro.
Steve Jobs was always about accommodating consumers and professionals alike, but Apple may start to only sell what people buy. The trend towards mobile over the last several years has limited the market for high-end computers like the Mac Pro even further, especially given to the wild success of the company's iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. Paired with iCloud, Apple's cloud infrastructure, the company's other laptops like the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air demonstrate how computers can be speedy and strong while not taking up as much space as traditional desktop towers.
Apple has already backed off on selling the Mac Pro. The company still sells the 12-core model for $4,999 on its Web site, but most retailers only list the computer as a special order item, while others have pulled the high-end configuration from its database completely.
While computer towers are becoming increasingly outdated, there is still a chance Apple is working on revising the Mac Pro line to become cheaper or more accessible to consumers. One version of the Mac Pro accommodates server needs, so there's a chance Apple will split off that item from its desktop computers, and focus on a way to improve the architecture and software to make it more welcoming and economical for mainstream consumers.