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iMac Pro the first Apple computer to wave Intel goodbye
Cupertino on its way to CPU independence, the least successful model unceremoniously left behind
The Great Transition of Apple (from Intel's silicon to its own), one of the most important ones in the company's history, started with the launch of the two Macbook M1 models and the Mac Mini M1 last year. But a transition is not really felt until things get left behind - and that is exactly what is happening now, Apple confirms. The iMac Pro, one of the most prestigious and expensive computers the Cupertino giant has built in the last few years, is being phased out, at least in its current form: the first one to be left behind, sold while supplies last (in its basic configuration only), not to be updated with Intel's next processors because, well, there's no Apple future there.
This is all happening in March 2021, while very few people have a crystal-clear picture of Apple's exact plans for the M1 transition. It makes sense for the company to release new Macs based on the more nimble, less power-hungry architecture starting with mainstream laptops and desktops targeted at less demanding home users, leaving the more powerful M1 laptops and M1 desktops for a bit later (when the software side of things is in better shape). That is exactly what Apple chose to do in 2020 so we all expect the company to follow the same path in 2021.
In that context, one might think that it was not yet time for the iMac Pro to be so unceremoniously forced to retire, as its M1 version is probably 12-18 months away. Truth is, though, that the iMac Pro was always a weird proposition: less powerful and expandable than a Mac Pro, not much more powerful than a top iMac yet costing quite a bit more - the "Pro" moniker, you see - it was ideal for specific use scenarios only. It's not even certain that an M2/M3 iMac Pro is in the cards, as Apple's architecture leads to different CPU/GPU/RAM configurations compared to Intel ones.
As this M1/M2/M3 transition will take about 2 years - Apple's own words - the Cupertino giant wouldn't like to watch iMac sales take a nosedive in the meantime. So to people that are not happy with its decision to retire the iMac Pro, Apple recommends a 2020 27-inch iMac which (for the same bargain price of $5000) offers the same level of power and more configuration options. There are investors to placate, after all.
These expensive iMacs are an even harder sell, though, now that Apple customers start to realize that all Macs based on Intel processors will be discontinued within the next 12-18 months, tops. Apple will probably support these machines for a while with software updates, yes, but it's hard to imagine it spending resources on developing a version of macOS for Intel-based Macs beyond 2022. For most people that would be a dealbreaker all on its own: computers, especially expensive ones, are not iPhones to be replaced every other year. They are expected to last quite a bit longer. So... will that sales nosedive start happening soon? Has it already? We'll find out soon enough.