Apple mulling end of life for Mac Pro line, report says

Apple's high-end desktop towers, which start at $2,499, could be getting the ax soon, according to a new report that says Apple's re-thinking its place in the desktop workstation market.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
Apple's Mac Pro.
Apple's Mac Pro. Apple

Apple's line of high-end desktop towers could be more endangered than originally thought, with a new report claiming that the company is considering shelving what is currently its most expensive product.

Citing anonymous sources, AppleInsider says that a sharp decline in sales of the workstations, which begin at $2,499 in the U.S., have led executives to reconsider whether it's worth continuing to invest in the product line.

"People familiar with the matter said management as far back as May of 2011 were in limbo over whether to pour any additional resources into the product line," the report says.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying the company does not comment on rumors and speculation.

Apple does not break down its sales numbers by device, and only lists them by product category, with the most recent fiscal quarter pulling in sales of 4.89 million Macs. Yet most of those in this most recent quarter, as well as in the past few years, have been the company's portables. During its fourth quarter earnings call, the company noted that sales were "fueled by the very strong growth of the MacBook Air, as well as the continued strong performance of the MacBook Pro." All told, those two portables accounted for 74 percent of the Mac sales for the quarter, with desktop sales being led not by the Mac Pro, but by Apple's iMac instead.

Apple last updated its Mac Pro line on July 27, 2010 (that's 1 year, 3 months and 4 days ago if you're counting), bumping up the processing power to 12 cores and moving to speedier graphics cards. The exterior design has remained relatively unchanged since before the company made its move to Intel processors. A report from MacRumors last week suggested that the next update to the hardware might not come until the first quarter of 2012, given recent delays to Intel's Sandy Bridge E processor line.

If Apple were to shelve its Mac Pro line it would further bring into question Apple's involvement in the professional market, something that has been under a microscope over the past few years. Most recently, that shift can be seen with the company's transition from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X, a jump that left a number of video professionals dissatisfied after Apple omitted key workflow features. Apple countered, saying that the new version of the software represents a complete rethinkof that particular software line, the likes of the jump from Mac OS 9 to OS X. A similar effort has been rumored to be in the works for Apple's audio software Logic, which has gone the longest without a major release among Apple's line of pro software.

On the hardware side, pros have also taken aim at Apple for moving to glossy screens on its notebooks by default, as well as making the batteries on those units unable to be swapped in favor of delivering longer battery life.

In either case, there's no arguing the fact that desktop sales just weren't what they used to be compared to when Apple introduced the original design of the Mac Pro (then the Power Mac G5) in mid-2003. While Mac hardware sales have grown considerably overall, notebooks have been the belle of the ball since they surpassed the company's sales of desktop computers in 2004. Those same notebook units now face cannibalization from Apple's iPad, which itself blew past Mac sales last year.