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CAD/3D Industry Responds to Apple’s New Mac Pro

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.” CAD industry insiders and veterans respond to Apple’s new Mac Pro coming later this year and share their thoughts on the new machine

Last month during Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, Phil Schiller surprised the world with his bear knuckle language when he stated, “can’t innovate anymore, my ass…” referring to a stream of nagging criticism heading into Apple’s 2013 WWDC that the pressure was on the Cupertino company to prove it can still innovate without the late Steve Jobs at its helm.

When Phil introduced the image of the words “Mac Pro” in his keynote slide, the crowd erupted as the long over-due update for Mac veterans finally went answered. At last! And then during the opening break of the product’s dramatic introduction video Phil offers the moment of bravado old-timers familiar with the Mac’s street fighting days really wanted to hear.

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Indeed, the new Mac Pro recalls the glory days when Apple faught, mano a mano, with the Microsoft-Intel dynasty, promoting its then AIM-based PowerPC architecture over Pentium craft.

To be honest, it’s been a very long time since those days and so much has changed. But those were fun days and the laughter Phil garnered in the audience seemed to reflect both the surprise of the comment–considering his normal demeanor–as much as the slight embarrassment of Apple’s once rebellious years.

Of course that rebellious, adolescent and non-conforming spirt that is the very heart of who Steve Jobs was is vitally important to how the market expects Apple to be. It has to be in their DNA if the company’s soul is to survive the many years ahead….without its founder and master story-teller.

How The Pro Market Sees It

While Phil doesn’t mention specifically 3D and CAD professionals in his pitch about how much Apple cares about its pro customers, Apple is no doubt aware that architects, industrial designers and 3D animation artists are all important domains of its overall professional “creatives” customer base. We thought we’d speak to some in the industry about what they think of the new Mac Pro given available information and also what they hope for it in the days ahead.

Built to Fly Now

We were curious what one of the world’s leading BIM software makers would think of the new Mac Pro introduced at WWDC. So we spoke to Akos Pfemeter, Director of Global Marketing, at GRAPHISOFT, Hungary. When asked whether a system as powerful as a 12-core Mac Pro (2013) would be taken advantage of by their pioneering BIM package ArchiCAD, the company replied emphatically, yes!

“GRAPHISOFT introduced multiprocessing technology as an industry first for BIM,” said Pfemeter. “We have been pioneering this technology ever since, including but not limited to multiprocessing support for basic sequential processes like photo-realistic rendering.” Pfemeter said GRAPHISOFT’s ArchiCAD 17 will utilize nearly ever drop of those 12 cores in the upcoming Mac Pro. “Multiprocessing support is critical for the BIM database heavy processing, which involves model generation,” says Pfemeter. “And the 12 cores of the Mac Pro will also be utilized for ArchiCAD’s brand new background processing support for both data caching and populating model changes across the BIM.”

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“Obviously with the great dynamic scaling of ArchiCAD 17 we will very much benefit from the 12 powerful cores of the brand new Mac Pro,” continued Pfemeter. “and it will also benefit from the advanced OpenGL technologies that the powerful twin 4K graphics cards provide, allowing 3D models within ArchiCAD 17 to just fly.”

[editor’s note: To learn more about the Mac Pro’s guts, strength and possibilities see: Architosh, “Notes on the new Mac Pro — Details We Now Know,” 12 June 2013]

For developers who feel that they have their technology built to take off with such hardware today, it is simply a waiting game for their customers to get their hands on the new hardware. Other developers will likely strive to modernize their code bases to fully take advantage of the new hardware, particularly the twin GPUs.

Working with the Twins

And speaking of those twins… This is the first time Apple has shipped a computer with twin GPUs of any kind. And these are no average graphics cards. The new GPUs are based on AMD’s FirePro W9000 cards, which are AMD’s state-of-the-art and top of the line GPUs. But this is where things get really interesting, as Apple has not yet provided enough detail to address such questions as options and future expandability.

3D industry veteran and LumineTIK co-founder, Akiko Ashley, had this to say about that last issue. “A 3D professional needs reliable hardware with a lot of flexibility to upgrade the hardware including multiple video cards.” “I would like to know,” she writes, “[that] this hardware supports whatever I need to use.” Her LumineTIK co-founder and husband, Kevin Cahill, who is both an architect and 3D studio artist, has moved to PCs over the years because of the issue of flexibility expressed at the very core of Ashley’s question. “Kevin uses a PC with 24 cores to render with,” she adds, “What is the upgrade path for this Mac Pro and will it work for professionals or will it be just a “powerful” consumer machine?”

While the twin AMD FirePro GPUs sound incredibly exciting to think about owning, to power an OS X suite of CAD or 3D apps, many veterans are justifiably questioning how Apple plans to provide for future upgrade paths and flexibility for long-term ownership and even initial purchase. With such stunning power many maybe wondering if they can afford a version of the new Mac Pro?

next page: The Initial Reaction — This Doesn’t Come Cheap

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