Why Won’t Apple Support Nvidia Silicon With macOS Mojave?

 

For the most part, asking why Apple won’t support things is a futile endeavor. Much ink has been spilled criticizing the company’s various design decisions and raising questions about its product families, particularly in recent years, as prices have risen and product decisions have seemed to prioritize form over function.

But even with all of that said, the company’s attitudes towards Nvidia’s GPUs could really use some explaining. For years, Nvidia cards have worked in Mac systems on an unofficial level, which meant you could get things to operate if you were willing to roll up your sleeves a little bit. This continued to be the case through macOS 10.13, which supported Nvidia’s Pascal family. While this support has been unofficial, it made sense for Apple to at least keep its hand in the proverbial game. eGPU support has been a major value-add for both Macs and PCs over the last few years, and the concept of using an external GPU opens the door to the vendor Apple isn’t integrating into its own hardware, whomever that might be. In addition, there are professional areas and applications where Nvidia’s GPUs and CUDA support are preferred over AMD. But with macOS 10.14 (Mojave), that support is gone — and according to AppleInsider, they can’t even figure out why.

According to Nvidia, the problem lies entirely with Apple. A statement released by the company last year reads:

Developers using Macs with NVIDIA graphics cards are reporting that after upgrading from 10.13 to 10.14 (Mojave) they are experiencing rendering regressions and slow performance.

Apple fully controls drivers for Mac OS. Unfortunately, NVIDIA currently cannot release a driver unless it is approved by Apple.

Our hardware works on OS 10.13 which supports up to (and including) Pascal.

AppleInsider notes that even the supported graphics cards — limited to the GTX 680 and Quadro K5000, both Kepler-era GPUs — took a performance hit under Mojave. But the website’s attempts to find an answer as to why Nvidia GPUs were now persona non grata on Mac hardware in any capacity kept running into roadblocks. According to them, engineers at Apple are agreeable to the idea and there’s certainly no reason Apple’s Metal 2 UI can’t run on Nvidia hardware, but there was a consistent feeling that “support for Nvidia’s higher-end cards would be welcome, but disallowed quietly at higher levels of the company.”

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Apple users need not apply.

AppleInsider concluded that the issue is long-standing “quiet hostility” between Nvidia and Apple at a fairly high level. This, of course, is perfectly possible. It’s also technically possible that it’s some facet of the deal between Apple and AMD, though it’s unclear why Apple would ever agree to such a limit in the first place and seems generally unlikely. But regardless of the underlying reason, it’s a situation we’d like to see the companies’ resolve.

Gamers and professional users are best-served when they have the freedom to deploy the software and hardware solutions they want to use in as flexible a manner as possible. There do not appear to be technical reasons why Nvidia’s GPUs cannot be supported on macOS 10.14 (Mojave). If Apple wants to rely solely on AMD as a formal partner for its integrated GPUs, that’s entirely its own business. But the major benefit of the eGPU ecosystem is precisely that users have far more freedom to upgrade their graphics card, even if they’re limited to a mobile system.

Disallowing product support for the largest graphics card vendor and the major GPU player in the AI and ML markets is anti-competitive and consumer-hostile. It also strikes directly against Apple’s claim to care about professional users and professional markets. Nvidia and Apple should work together to support at least Nvidia GPUs in eGPU configurations, up to and including the RTX family. A petition to that effect has been started already.

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