Here’s why the 2023 Mac Pro doesn’t have a discrete GPU

When Daring Fireball’s John Gruber sat down with Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi, hardware engineering chief John Ternus, AR/VR chief Mike Rockwell, and marketing chief Greg Joswiak to discuss the announcements at WWDC 2023, an intriguing titbit about the Mac Pro 2023 emerged.

MacRumors noted that John Termus explained why Apple has no plans to include support for either external GPU or a video card.

“Fundamentally, we’ve built our architecture around this shared memory model and that optimization, and so it’s not entirely clear to me how you’d bring in another GPU and do so in a way that is optimized for our systems,” Ternus told Gruber. “It hasn’t been a direction that we wanted to pursue.”

In other words, don’t expect support for GPU on Apple Silicon for the foreseeable future, something that is likely to irk anyone that was planning to use Nvidia card and CUDA for ML (Machine Learning) training for example. It is hard not to see Apple’s veiled attempt at slowly killing the Mac Pro, pushing it into planned obsolescence, the same path taken, a long time ago by the Xserve, Apple’s dedicated server range.

As I mentioned in my recent opinion about the Mac Pro, Apple proudly sacrificed its $2,000 accelerator card when it announced that Now every Mac Pro has the performance of not just one but seven Afterburner cards built in. Why would you buy $14,000 worth of hardware when a $3,999 workstation can do the same job? (ed: One thing for sure is that the Mac Studio is likely to be one of the best workstations around)

What about memory? 

Neither Termus not anyone in attendance on June 7 spoke about the other big restriction Mac Pro users face; the maximum amount of shared, non-upgradable memory of 192GB. That’s a fraction of what the previous generation of Mac Pro offered (1.5TB) and something that will impact a fringe of current Mac Pro users. When we asked popular Mac software developer, Affinity, about whether 192GB would be an issue for their applications (creative tools), they said it wouldn’t.

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As a business though, Apple is catering for most users and only a vocal minority will point out to the shortcomings of its new offerings. Its hardware platform is rapidly moving away from the traditional setup of what a desktop PC should look like; integrated, mobile-first compute leads the way with anything with a hint of modularity being thrown out of the window. It’s not as if Apple was coy about it; this 2020 WWDC video made it clear that this was going to be the future “Building everything into one chip gives the system a unified memory architecture”.

A combination of integrated everything and ownership of the software stack gives Apple an inherent advantage both in terms of deployment, sheer performance and value for money that no one will be able to match.

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