For the better part of its existence, Apple has tried to keep its products inside a walled garden and tightly control as much of the hardware and software for its devices as possible. That is not necessarily a bad thing — it often helps the company ensure a good user experience and minimize end-user support issues.
Since the release of macOS 10.14 “Mojave” however, Apple appears to have reined things in even further, much to the chagrin of budding artists and creative professionals that use Mac systems and rely on NVIDIA GPU solutions to accelerate their workloads.
Apple controls which drivers are released for its operating systems. And when Apple pushed macOS 10.14 out the door, it appears suspended support for some discrete NVIDIA GPUs. According to Apple’s website, only two aging “Mac Edition” discrete NVIDIA GPUs, the Quadro K5000 and GeForce GTX 680, are officially supported. Pre-Mojave though, many users had turned to newer, more powerful NVIDIA discrete GPUs based on the company’s Pascal architecture for workloads that can benefit from NVIDIA’s CUDA parallel computing platform and other proprietary development tools. It is worth noting that NVIDIA also recently released GPUs based on its future-looking turing architecture that offers additional compute resources, i.e. RT and Tensor cores, along with improved multimedia capabilities and enhanced HDR support, which are all features that will be of particular interest to some users moving forward.
A post on the NVIDIA developer website succinctly summarizes what’s happening, “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.” Additional posts on the site say NVIDIA is working with Apple on Mojave support, but no clear timetable is mentioned. From what I have gleaned, Apple would typically provide NVIDIA with pre-release operating systems and the low-level framework necessary to produce drivers for upcoming OS releases, but that didn’t happen with Mojave. Should NVIDIA receive these things, updated web drivers which add the necessary support to Mojave for NVIDIA’s GPUs could be produced in only a few days and then it would be up to Apple to approve them.
This situation has some prominent Mac users up in arms. Forum posts have been popping up at various locations since Mojave’s release and some Apple-centric publications have reported on it as well. Last month, a petition that currently has over 2,800 signatures landed on Change.Org urging Apple and Tim Cook to work with NVIDIA. And a few days ago Jason Diamond, an Emmy award-winning producer and editor, took to social media asking creative professionals to sign the petition.
In the post, Diamond tags Jarred Land, a producer that also happens to be the president of RED Digital Cinema, who himself is an NVIDIA user. In fact, Land has a post on his wall showing a GeForce RTX Titan decoding 8K video in real-time at 23.98 frames per second, out to a Sharp 8K UHD TV. “Not allowing NVIDIA to put out drivers for OSX 10.14 hurts my business. We depend on NVIDIA drivers to keep our Macs flying through apps like Creative Cloud, Resolve and RED Workflows. We NEED these drivers to keep our pipelines from impacting our clients.”, said Jason.
Other prominent content creators have taken to social media as well. There’s even an “#UnblockNVIDIA” hashtag on Twitter that’s been bandied about between users, Apple, NVIDIA, and Tim Cook that’s been used daily since early last month.
At this point, it’s somewhat unclear exactly as to why NVIDIA GPU support isn’t present in Mojave. If you peruse the various posts on the subject, fingers are being pointed at both sides. I have spoken to NVIDIA and was told they are ready and willing to support Mojave, and pointed me to the aforementioned comment on their developer website. I have also reached out to Apple for comment, but have yet to receive a response. Should Apple respond, I’ll be sure to post an update.