It should be clear to everyone by now that we have entered the era of the iDevices (iPhones and iPads). Steve Jobs' zeal on stage while talking about the iPad and now the iPhone 4 shows that he's on a tunnel-vision crusade. Apple is concentrating all their efforts on becoming the market leader in this new field. Heck, they didn't even give ONE Apple Design Award to a Mac application this year, despite this being a traditional award given out every year to the best MAC applications. Suddenly, it's all about the iDevice toys... Portable consumer devices for browsing the internet and checking email are expected to overtake computers completely by 2015, to a point where content creators and gamers will be the only people still using desktop machines. They also predict that most applications and services will be in that disgusting "cloud" thing which requires Internet connectivity just to access apps. I don't really believe either of those predictions, but that doesn't matter, Apple (and when I say Apple I mean Steve Jobs) is dead-set on shaping, grooming and dominating this new market. So... it's been over 460 days since the last update to the Mac Pro, which is highly unusual, and of course this massive delay (along with Intel starting mass production of Westmere Xeons now, June) lead everybody to the highly logical conclusion that we should expect new Mac Pros at WWDC '10, which as we know didn't happen... Did you hear the developer-audience's cheers at "one more thing", only to be let down by a damn video chat application? The audience consists mainly of professional developers who depend on Mac Pros in their offices, and this iToy business was a huge slap in their faces by Apple. It's clear that WWDC is no longer a developer convention, as far as the keynotes go. It's now a marketing arm of Apple, designed to create cute Steve Jobs-quotes and video clips to feed to the consumer public via the massive amounts of press that hang out at the event. Heck, if anyone doubts Steve's tunnel vision; Steve Jobs can't even promise that we'll get Apple Design Awards for Mac DESKTOP APPLICATIONS next year either (note the emphasis on "Maybe"). There should be NO question about what Steve Jobs' latest baby is, and it's NOT the Mac desktops. Waiting for new Pro machines is of course made even more painful by Mac Pro 2009's insane prices. Apple could at least drop the current price! You can build your own Hackintosh with the exact same components as the current Mac Pro 2009s for less than half the price using easily accessible off-the-shelf parts. To top it off, the current machines were released over 460 days ago, and have kept the same price for all this time despite being overpriced even back then (the 2009 Mac Pros actually cost Apple a lot less to manufacture than the 2008 models due to much lower CPU prices, yet Apple significantly raised the price of the 2009 models), it's insanity... It has gone far enough that lots of people that used to despise Hackintoshes have actually considered building one of their own, since Apple has completely dropped the ball. Heck, they've thrown the ball away! Over 460 days without updates so far, and no price reductions... jeeze. This new iToys-horny Apple is giving me a headache. So WWDC came and went without any news of new Mac Pros. However, today, June 10th, Steve Jobs confirmed that Apple has NOT forgotten about the Mac Pros and that we'll have to "wait and see". Updates are coming. What you'll have to ask yourself is if you should buy now or wait for Sandy Bridge. See, on April 13th, 2010, Intel's CEO announced that they will begin mass-producing their latest architecture, Sandy Bridge, in Q4 2010: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362601,00.asp Server-versions (Xeons) of Sandy Bridge will follow a few months later, around April+ (Q2) 2011. Basically, to get the most out of your buck, you have these choices: If you have a perfectly good workstation now and can use it until April+ 2011, then wait. You'll be getting Sandy Bridge's USB3, LightPeak, SATA3, PCI Express 3.0 (twice the bandwidth), native support for 1600 MHz RAM, 8 cores per processor, and higher performance, and it'll be a much better buy than ANY Westmere of today (which is merely a die-shrink of November 2008's Nehalem). If you don't have a workstation now but need one, then either get a Westmere Mac Pro workstation when they come out if you don't mind the entire architecture becoming obsolete in 9-10 months (as opposed to just a die-shrink such as Nehalem -> Westmere), or get something cheaper for now such as last year's technology; either via a refurb, second-hand or a cheap Hackintosh. I'll most likely hit this camp. They are still powerful machines and will be excellent to tide you over into 2011, where you'll be able to get the vastly superior Sandy Bridge (SB) architecture <-- (click for unrelated relaxation with "SB" ). If you don't have a need for a workstation now, but want one later, then wait for Sandy Bridge and use something like an iMac, MacBook or Mac Mini for now. As some apologists will point out, of course Nehalem/Westmere will still be incredibly powerful as far as CPU performance goes after Sandy Bridge is released, but it will no longer have the latest technology, and we're talking about groundbreaking things like USB3, SATAIII, LightPeak and PCI Express 3.0 (which both doubles the bandwidth over 2.0 and has many more lanes per CPU, giving you more PCI Express ports in the computer), where we'll eventually have devices and cards that require these ports. Wouldn't you rather have a computer that contains the ports that are about to become the new standards? Anyone who doesn't at least look over the implications of buying now versus waiting is foolish. This is a completely new architecture right around the corner, with multiple new standards technologies, things that will just be in more and more demand as modern devices are released that will require USB3, SATAIII, LightPeak or PCI Express 3.0. It's your money and I'm not saying you shouldn't buy a Westmere Mac now. As I said, it's perfectly fine to buy a Westmere now as long as you know what you're getting into. Responses to a couple of possible objections: Q: Who cares? A: I'm glad you asked that. Depending on who you are, this might not be interesting to you at all, but for the rest of us, this factor of a whole heap of emerging technology should at least be taken into account before spending 3 years of saved up cash on a fully loaded Westmere Mac, when you could buy a second-hand/refurb/make a Hackintosh to tide you over until the real quantum leap with Sandy Bridge. Unless you are made of money, that will be a much wiser choice. I happen to be made of money and I still won't be buying any fully kitted out Westmere, it's just not a wise choice with such a quantum leap coming up quite soon. The best thing to do is just to get something to get by with while waiting; and the current machines are very powerful, so a refurb/second-hand/Hackintosh will be the best choice for most people. Q: But... but... Westmere has 6 cores instead of 4, isn't that better? A: Those that need the 4 extra cores (from 2x4 (8) to 2x6 (12)) are free to buy a Westmere now, if they really need it, but even most editors would get by excellently with the 2009 Mac Pro. As for Westmere (6 cores) vs Nehalem (4 cores), the performance is negligible since most applications cannot even use more than 1 or 2 cores simultaneously. Come back when programs are written to use "n" number of cores without bottlenecks and I'll say your NEHALEM will come to use (let alone the WESTMERE). Heck, stuff like 3D Studio Max crashes if you have over 8 cores (or something like that, I forgot the exact number), and most applications still only use one or two cores. There are programs that are exceptions to this, along with people who use said programs to make money, and for them I say go for it (Westmere) if you need the extra cores. Q: Aren't there current-generation PC motherboards with USB3 and SATA III that could be used in a HackPro? A: That's a two-part question; "is it available?" and "is it supported under Mac OS X?". Current implementations exist, yes; however, they are unofficial non-Intel controller chipsets. The Intel solution is the one most likely to be in the Mac Pro, and Intel is releasing an all-in-one USB 3 / SATA III controller chip in conjunction with Sandy Bridge's release in 2011, for OEMs such as Apple to use on their motherboards. Therefore, there will NOT be Mac OS X drivers for ANY of those unofficial chips that are out today; just in case you were planning to build a Hackintosh with a PC motherboard. One such board is the EVGA SR-2, and if you were to use it, your only chance at getting support for your precious USB3 and SATA3 ports is if you try to port open-source Linux or UNIX drivers to Mac OS X, which is something that the Hackintosh community does at times, but don't bet on being able to boot from a SATA3-connected disk. Basically, NO these things don't exist under Mac OS X until Intel officially brings them out, which they'll be doing with Sandy Bridge's release in 2011. Until then we don't know which of the USB 3 controller chips Apple will be using (most likely the Intel one), and therefore you shouldn't build any Hackintosh today with 3rd party chips hoping for drivers, because they'll most likely never come. So chill out and wait for Apple's Sandy Bridge board, it's too early to know which controller they'll be using (in other words; which chipset they will be writing Mac OS X drivers for). Q: Okay so USB3 and SATA III won't work under Mac OS X with current non-Intel implementations. What about Light Peak and PCI Express 3.0, can those be added to current computers in any way? A: Light Peak - YES, at lower performance; Intel has designed a PCI Express 2.0 card that will supply Light Peak to existing motherboards (not as fast as native Light Peak though). PCI Express 3.0 - NO, that is dependent on the CPU. For instance, each Nehalem/Westmere Xeon provides thirtytwo (32) "1x" lanes of PCI Express 2.0; with two CPUs that's sixtyfour (64) "1x" lanes, or a total of "64x" of bandwidth. This is then split across the various connectors on the board in any way the manufacturer prefers. Apple, for instance, chose to go for a 4x16 (=64) setup, but could just as well have gone for 2x16 (=32) + 4x8 (=32) = 64 (which would have given six ports, and still only used 64 lanes). Other manufacturers, like EVGA, use Nvidia NF200 line doublers, which is basically an intelligent queuing/messaging passthrough device that allows you to connect multiple fast devices to a single lane, and therefore artificially increases the number of lanes and lets you create configurations such as EVGA SR-2's seven (7) 16x lanes. For PCI Express 3.0, you will need new Sandy Bridge CPUs to take care of the increasing demands such as doubled polling rate and more lanes from the CPU. Q: What is all this good for? USB 3? SATA III? Light Peak? PCI Express 3.0? How do I know if I will need it for what I'm doing? A: USB 3: Offers a maximum transfer rate of 5 Gbps, which is 10 times faster than USB 2. USB 3 is also full duplex (bi-directional; allowing simultaneous upload and download) whereas USB 2 is only half-duplex (one direction at a time). USB 3 is also superior to SATA 1.0/eSATA, which has a maximum rate of 3 Gbps, and to FireWire 800 (which only offers full duplex at 800 Mbps). It remains to be seen how much CPU it will use (USB has historically been a CPU hog compared to FireWire). SATA III: This will offer 6 Gbps transfer rates, which is mainly going to benefit SSD users, since fast SSD RAID arrays will be bottlenecked by the current SATA bus. Light Peak: LightPeak is a high-speed optical transfer technology developed by Intel, which will initially offer 10 Gbps over a single wire (and eventually scale up to 100 Gbps), and is something you would have in addition to things like USB3 and SATA III, and only for special purposes; it is meant for connecting super high resolution screens, networking, storage, etc, basically anything that benefits from its huge bandwidth. It offers a massive amount of bandwidth and will be excellent for a lot of purposes such as network-accessed RAID arrays. It all travels over one, tiny cable as well. The long-term goal by Intel is to eventually connect most devices using LightPeak and get rid of dedicated cables such as DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, Audio cables, Mouse cables, Keyboard cables, Network cables, etc, but for the foreseeable future the most likely use will be in high-speed transfers such as networking; with everyone still connecting their regular devices through their dedicated ports (USB, FireWire, DVI, etc...), the way it's done today. PCI Express 3.0: As mentioned above, it will have double the current bandwidth of PCI Express 2.0, as well as more lanes. This leads to computers with many more PCI Express slots than today, allowing you to plug in lots of cards. For instance, if you are a music producer using a current Mac Pro and the UAD2 DSP card platform, you would be limited since the current Mac Pro only has four PCI Express slots, and you would need to use at least one for a graphics card, leaving 3 slots free for DSP cards. PCI Express 3.0 will solve all of that, offering many more and faster ports on a single motherboard. Q: Well, even though Sandy Bridge is coming out soon, Apple might not use it right away? A: My take is: Apple has received early exclusive access from Intel in the past, so it's not impossible that they'll be first out. Even if they do decide to screw us over and delay a Sandy Bridge update next year, it's always easy to build one yourself with off-the-shelf parts (Hackety-hack), which in my opinion is perfectly fine to do when we're dealing with a company that doesn't treat their Pro customers' needs right. Yes, it's often the case that the most powerful Macs are Hackintoshes, it's freaking horrible. You don't have that problem on the PC side, where you can just get the most powerful components and build anything cheaply. That's why most of the 3D rendering industry is back on Windows or Linux workstations now. I've seen one Windows machine with 288 GB Ram, dual X5680s, 24 SSDs in a RAID configuration. To say that it edited HD movies quickly is an understatement. You can't get anything even close to that in a Mac. Let's hope that Westmere upgrade comes soon so that 2009's second-hand value drops further. The 2009's will be nice and cheap and powerful enough while waiting for Sandy Bridge.