The new Mac Pro is an awesome machine for those with several thousand dollars to spend on a computer and a need for all the power that comes with that thermal core, but managing to get one is going to be difficult for the next few months even if you have the credit card ready. Yesterday, Apple announced that the Mac Pro would go on sale today, December 19th. The store went live last night with the Mac Pro shipping the very last non-holi-day of 2013, December 30th.
As we noted earlier today, Apple’s customers in its home state of California awoke to Mac Pros being quoted to ship in February. But it gets worse…
Now we’re also hearing from customers with shipping quotes all the way in March (thanks to DetroitBorg for the image). And if you think getting one via a physical Apple Store location will be simple, know that many Apple Stores have already been giving Mac Pro quotes and processing orders for business accounts since the start of this week. It’s possible that initial store allocations will go to those customers paying $500 per year for a Joint Venture membership. Every Apple Store that we’ve checked with seems to also be taking orders solely for Personal Pickup at this point, not for walk-in purchases.
If this all sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably been reminded about the late-2012 iMac launch. Alongside the original iPad mini and fourth-generation full-sized iPad, Apple announced a redesigned iMac at its October 2012 product event. The new iMac was significantly thinner, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor. The only problem was that 21.5-inch models would ship over a month later (in November) and the 27-inch product would ship in December.
The 2012 iMacs ended up going on sale on November 30th (the last day for Apple to meet its self-imposed deadline), and many orders for the 27-inch models ended up not shipping until well into January. In fact, iMacs saw significant shortages throughout the critical Apple Q1 holiday quarter, as Tim Cook predicted:
In terms of general shortages… on the iMac we’ll be constrained for the full quarter in a significant way… there will be a short amount of time to manufacturer and ramp those and i expect demand to be robust… we will have a significant shortage.
At the close of the quarter, reflecting on the iMac shortages, Cook said the following:
I don’t spend a lot of time looking back… If we could run it over, i would have announced the iMac after the turn of the year… we felt our customers had to wait too long for that specific product… Where the iPad mini was in shortage in the December quarter, I would not have done that differently because we were able to get the product out to many customers that wanted it. In retrospect, I wish it [iMac] was after the turn of the year so customers would not have had to wait as long as they did.
So, with that in mind, why is Apple launching another even more niche product (just one year later) to even more extreme shortages?
Let’s take a look back at Apple’s announcement process for the new Mac Pro, the lengthiest official pre-launch timeline for an Apple hardware product in recent history:
- Following a minor update to the previous Mac Pro design during WWDC 2012, Tim Cook and Apple PR confirmed to various customers (via email) and news organizations that a new Mac Pro would arrive “later in 2013.”
- A year later, Apple introduced the new Mac Pro during its WWDC 2013 keynote address. Apple did not provide detailed pricing or launch information at that time.
- Apple began promoting the new Mac Pro’s design in movie theaters a few months ago.
- At its October iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display event, Apple provided more details about the Mac Pro and said it would ship in December.
- Following the event, Apple promoted the Mac Pro by mailing posters to certain members of the media.
Apple announcing the availability of a future product 1.5 years before launch is absolutely unprecedented, but for a computer that is critical for certain professionals, that tease is practical. So, with all of the aforementioned announcements before the product even hit the market, why does Apple need to launch to shortages? The product is too expensive and too centered around professionals for it to have any legitimate impact on the all-important holiday quarter.
It would appear that there must have been some problems ramping up production in Texas. Why else would Tim Cook expose himself to the type of situation he just 1 year earlier said he wished he could avoid? The only rationale is that Mac Pro production was delayed beyond Apple’s wildest estimates.
When faced with the prospect of missing the deadline on the very important first U.S.-assembled Apple product in a decade versus making customers wait in very long queues, it would appear he opted for making the deadline.
What if Apple pushed back the ordering process of the machines until late-January or February of 2014? I do not believe that would have had a significant impact on the market because many customers who woke up at a normal time in much of the United States today won’t be able to receive a new Mac Pro until February or March anyway.
Perhaps Tim Cook just wanted to stick to his more than a year-old “later in 2013” timeline, but is Apple really meeting that deadline with Mac Pros shipping in March after being ordered during the first few hours of the initial launch? Perhaps Apple could have taken a lesson from the prior year and launched when it had ample supply of the product.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the matter. Update: Apple gave the comment to Forbes:
“Demand for the all new Mac Pro is great and it will take time before supply catches up with demand,” an Apple spokesman said today.