updated 12:15 am EST, Tue December 24, 2013
Some stock configurations shipped today, BTO still shipping early January
Apple's new line of Mac Pro computers have begun shipping to customers, a few days earlier than expected, according to reports from Twitter and other social media. Users with standard configurations are starting to receive shipping notifications from Apple for delivery before January 1, with previously-ordered build-to-order machines still shipping early in January.
Users ordering today will see dates in some cases for delivery in February, with the shortest time for delivery available on the four-core stock configuration. Apple retail stores have little, if any, availability of the computer, with most locations indicating "ship to store" which generally means no in-stock supplies of the in-demand computer.
Contrary to some media reports, the slippage in delivery times is more likely to be the case of unexpected popularity rather than production issues. While the Mac Pro is a relatively niche product compared to most of Apple's other offerings, there is both great interest and pent-up demand due to it combination of extremely powerful technologies and a prosumer-level price point. It is also by far the product most likely to be ordered with custom configurations, and there are a total of over 200 ways to modify the two standard models.
Though the base configuration is a little less than twice the price of the most common MacBook and iMac models, it is cheaper of the most powerful configurations of each of those machines -- and offers considerably more graphic and processing potential than either provides. The company itself notes that the new machine is three to four times faster in Final Cut Pro X compared to a 12-core, 3.06GHz previous model (even when using an SSD drive and an ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics system). Final Cut is the first pro app to be specifically tweaked for the new Mac Pro
It is also said to be between five and eight times faster in 3D applications, 1.5 to two times faster in Aperture and twice as fast using Pixelmator. The units PCIe-based SSDs are 25 times faster than Firewire 800-based drives, and 2.5 times faster than conventional SSDs (which are themselves already up to 10x the speed of conventional HDDs). The processor offers up to seven teraflops of computing power -- by way of comparison, the previous top-of-the-line Mac Pro offered 2.7 teraflops.
One of the reasons Apple chose to build the new Mac Pro in the United States was due to expected modest demand, since one of the barriers to more assembly and manufacturing being done in North America is that companies can't scale up demand to huge levels virtually overnight as Chinese-based assembly compounds (which often resemble small cities and house thousands of workers) can. The Mac Pro is also not thought of as a machine that typical consumers would give as presents, making the December launch a clear indication that Apple wanted to start with "soft" demand.
Early reviews, however, have characterized the new Mac Pro as a machine without equal in the current computer industry. Radical in both design philosophy and performance, the machine -- while not the fastest computer money can buy -- is one of most powerful available at its main price points or even at its most expensive configurations, and also one of the quietest (which is, for some buyers, a highly-desired bonus).
Apple has now pushed back shipping and delivery dates into February after the initial influx of orders, but is likely to be ramping up production to the extent possible so that orders will slowly be pushed back to more reasonable wait times -- as it did with the iPhone 5s.