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★ First Impressions of the New iMac Pro

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Apple held a small press event yesterday in New York City to officially unveil the new iMac Pros, which went on sale today.

It is significantly more expensive than its non-pro iMac siblings — the iMac Pro starts at $4999, but most configurations will cost significantly more. But make no mistake — if you buy one of these, you’re getting true professional performance for your money. You’re not just getting (admittedly gorgeous) space black anodized aluminum.

The entire lineup of iMac Pros is based on Intel’s new Xeon W CPUs, and is entirely SSD based. There are no configurations with spinning hard drives or Fusion drives — according to Apple, the system architecture is designed only to work with SSDs for internal storage. These components are all high-end: the RAM is 2666 MHz DDR 4 ECC; the SSD storage has write speeds of 3.3 GB/sec and read speeds of 2.8 GB/sec. They have more Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports than the regular iMacs (including support for attaching up to two 5K external displays), 10-gigabit Ethernet (regular iMacs have plain old gigabit Ethernet), and the iMac Pro even has better-sounding speakers.

Here’s how quickly the price can escalate though: the base model $4999 iMac Pro has an 8-core CPU, 32 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SSD, a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card, and the exclusive space gray Magic Mouse. If you upgrade to 64 GB of RAM, 2 TB SSD, the Vega 64 graphics card, and the space black Magic Trackpad (instead of, not in addition to, the Magic Mouse), the price goes to $7,249. A 10-core iMac Pro with maxed out RAM (128 GB) and SSD storage (4 GB) and the Vega 64 graphics card is $11,599.

Apple is not fucking around with these machines, and neither are the people who will be buying them.

Apple invited a nice array of third-party developers to demo their software on the iMac Pro. My notes:

  • Adobe Dimension CC: Dimension is a relatively new app from Adobe. It lets designers create photo-realistic 3D renderings from 2D designs — for example, consumer packaging labels. Dimension’s rendering performance scales linearly with the number of CPU cores, which means it renders 2-5 times faster on iMac Pro compared to a regular iMac or MacBook Pro.

  • Gravity Sketch: VR-based 3D sketching. Very cool. I got to try it out, and in a nut, it’s almost more like sculpting than drawing. The iMac Pro is the only Mac capable of supporting Gravity Sketch.

  • Twinmotion: A real-time 3D visualization app. Architects can use Twinmotion to create 3D models from CAD drawings, and turn them into something akin to a 3D video game where you can, effectively, walk around and see what it would look like to be there. It includes features like setting the time of day, and even simulating various weather conditions and seasons of the year, all of which effect the lighting. And it’s all rendered in real time.

  • Electronauts: A VR music production app from a company called Survios, heretofore known for creating VR games. Electronauts was only officially announced today. It’s primarily a DJ app — creating, recording, and performing live electronic music, but it’s mixed with a game-like atmosphere akin to something like Guitar Hero. The interface is entirely VR-based — there is no non-VR UI, and the iMac Pro (a) runs Electronauts wonderfully — perfectly smooth at a high frame rate, and (b) is the only Mac capable of running it all.

  • Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X: Logic now allows massively multi-tracked projects to play in real-time. On any other Mac, sufficently complex projects would require either pre-rendering or real-time playback with compressed fidelity. Today’s new release of Final Cut Pro X adds editing features for VR experiences. Again, only on iMac Pro.

The bottom line is that for some tasks, the iMac Pros now handle full-fidelity playback in real-time that on any other Mac — MacBook Pro or Mac Pro — would require rendering or lower-fidelity playback. For other tasks, notably VR, the iMac Pro supports software that simply cannot run on any other Mac today.1

Apple has been effectively out of the professional desktop hardware game for a few years. The “trash can” Mac Pro design of 2013 languished, unchanged technically, in Apple’s product line for reasons unexplained until last April, when Apple took the unprecedented step of holding a small media summit to announce (a) that they were working on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, and (b) had a pro-targeted iMac in the works that would ship by the end of 2017.

The new iMac Pros that started shipping today deliver on half of that promise. These are serious undeniably professional machines. The Mac has gone from being a non-player in the burgeoning world of VR to a credible contender in one fell swoop. Two questions remain in my mind:

First, when is the “completely rethought” Mac Pro going to ship, and what is it going to offer above and beyond the iMac Pro besides separating the computer hardware from the display? Apple had nothing to say regarding the new Mac Pro other than that it is still forthcoming. If I needed the performance of modern professional desktop hardware, I would order an iMac Pro today. I wouldn’t wait.

Second, and to me far more importantly: how committed is Apple to keeping the iMac Pro up to date? It’s an impressive piece of engineering — do not let the appearance fool you into thinking that the iMac Pro is just an iMac with a dark finish and speed-bumped processors. Internally, it’s a completely different architecture. But the 2013 was an impressive piece of engineering and design that Apple put a lof of effort into, too.

My hope is that the iMac Pro has been designed with the future in mind. VR is moving fast — even on today’s leading hardware, the best VR experience is still insufficient: resolution is low (individual pixels are visible, clearly) and latency is still a huge problem. The end game for VR is an experience equivalent to our real-world vision. Every year’s worth of CPU and GPU improvements will be needed to get from here to there, so the iMac Pro will need to be updated on a roughly annual basis to remain relevant.


Some excellent reports from other writers who attended yesterday’s event:


  1. All of the VR demos at Apple’s event yesterday used the HTC Vive VR headset and controllers. None of them used the Occulus Rift. ↩︎

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mcormier
20 hours ago
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“Apple is not fucking around with these machines” - I find it hard to take Gruber seriously when he swears.
gdvillarreal
19 hours ago
He is not fucking around when he swears...
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Long-Term Coffee Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

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New paper published in Circulation:

Background — Considerable controversy exists regarding the association between coffee consumption and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. A meta-analysis was performed to assess the dose-response relationship of long-term coffee consumption with CVD risk. […]

Conclusions — A non-linear association between coffee consumption with CVD risk was observed in this meta-analysis. Moderate coffee consumption was inversely significantly associated with CVD risk, with the lowest CVD risk at 3 to 5 cups/d, and heavy coffee consumption was not associated with elevated CVD risk.

I like that 5 cups of coffee per day qualified as “moderate”. That’s right around what I consume.

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mcormier
32 days ago
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FYI - a cup of coffee is defined as 8 oz. Depending on the franchise an extra large cup of coffee can be as much as 32 oz.
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Medium’s Dickbar Gets the Clap

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Whether you think this feature is a good idea or not, why the fuck would they put this button on top of the text of the article you’re trying to read?

I’m starting to think Medium is just fucking with me at this point.

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mcormier
126 days ago
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I thought the title meant that the dickbar was sick as in it got Gonorrhea and was being killed off. Nope.
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2 public comments
jhamill
126 days ago
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I truly hope Medium is fucking with Gruber on purpose now.
California
martinbaum
126 days ago
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Every Ahab needs a white whale, and this is becoming Gruber's. He has a good point, but heh.
MotherHydra
123 days ago
Beautifully analogized.

Seth Weintraub: ‘10 Reasons Why Google Should Buy the Remains of RadioShack’

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Seth Weintraub:

In one swift move, Google could immediately have a bigger retail presence than Apple with almost 5,000 US stores, a rejuvenated workforce (at least to start with) and a somewhat lucrative business model selling carrier Android devices and accessories.

Over the first year, Google could manage continuing losses while training up current and new staff on Google products, redesigning the stores to be more inviting, and switching product lines to become more valuable. Apple and Tesla have both proven that high tech companies can prosper in retail. Microsoft and Amazon are both making efforts to get into retail as well.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and the price — $50 million — is truly pocket change for a company like Google. But I don’t see how any company could go from 0 to 4,000 retail stores in the snap of a finger. Has any company new to retail ever successfully pulled off something like that?

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mcormier
1043 days ago
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Target bought Zellers in Canada and have lost over 2 Billion and are now pulling out. Starting from zero to a large number of retail outlets is not the best idea.
lomifeh
1043 days ago
Not only that. Google has no idea how to run a retail business. Target which does had problems. For Google it would be a nightmare.
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Reminder: Apple Has Never Led the Smartphone Industry in Market Share

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Dawn Chmielewski, writing for Recode:

Apple, which years ago ceded the top spot in the global smartphone market to rival Samsung, appears to have pulled into a dead heat.

It’s true that Samsung passed Apple in smartphone market share years ago, but “the crown” was never Apple’s to cede. In the years prior to Samsung’s rise in 2010, Nokia led the industry, by far, in smartphone market share. RIM, too, was ahead of Apple until 2010.

From the DF archive: “Ceding the Crown”, back in March 2013.

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mcormier
1048 days ago
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The traditional media publishing cycle had a fact checking department, then the internet arrived and everything should have been released yesterday, and we dubbed it the Information Age. But please, don't confuse me with the facts.
summerofjay
1047 days ago
Chmielewski's source is the IDC - http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/08/04/idc_confirms_apple_as_worlds_top_smartphone_vendor_in_q2_2011
mcormier
1036 days ago
Just seeing this reply. Thanks. I redact my snarkiness.
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iTunes Connect Bug Logs Developers in to Other Developers’ Accounts at Random

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Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

This morning, a number of developers signed in to Apple’s iTunes Connect service only to be greeted by a list of apps that didn’t belong to them. TechCrunch has a good roundup of tweets from affected developers — it seems that whenever developers signed in with their credentials, they were being granted access to other developers’ accounts at random.

As of about noon Eastern today, Apple took the service down to resolve the problem.

Looks like iTunes Connect is back up now. If you’re a developer, I suggest logging in and making sure nobody monkeyed around with your apps while this was going on.

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mcormier
1050 days ago
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Some serious egg on face here.
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