updated 09:00 pm EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Continues slow improvement as supply catches up to demand
On Tuesday, Apple surprised analysts by noting a modest increase in Mac sales in the March quarter, improving them by some 100,000 units over the year-ago quarter. The feat was impressive, as the PC market generally has suffered a major decline in demand which has also affected Mac sales. Though it was the company's MacBook line that lead sales, one factor that may have played a significant role was the demand for the company's latest Mac Pro.
While it's not possible to be sure to what degree the in-demand but niche product workstation may have contributed to the figures, the company appears to have been caught short by strong demand for the new Mac Pro ever since its introduction last December. Shortly after its debut, shipments climbed to as far as nearly three months after orders, leading many to wonder if Apple's commitment to USA-based production, or possibly technical issues, were hampering the rollout.
As the Mac Pro has been prominently featured in several Apple promotional spots since its introduction, and because the product was teased in an email from Tim Cook more than a year before its eventual arrival, it could also be that demand -- particularly in light of stunning reviews of the radical redesign, particularly in the video-professional trade journals -- is genuinely much higher than expected. The fact that even "white box" PC builders appear to be unable to match the capabilities of the machine for anywhere near the retail price may have convinced creative pros to abandon the traditional "wait and see" posture, particularly given the very long wait for a revamped Pro.
Even as recently as February, the machine was still two months behind in expected shipping -- but this figure has steadily dropped since then, and on Thursday Apple began quoting times of three to five weeks for delivery in all configurations. Apart from a very brief period upon its retail debut, this is the best delivery time the company has yet offered.
In April, customers saw shipping estimates shrink to 5-6 weeks and gradually get shorter since then. The rapidly-changing shipping times would suggest that the company has finally -- five months later -- begun to achieve what CEO Tim Cook often refers to as "supply-demand balance." Even so, the Mac Pro is still largely unavailable outside premium mail-order resellers and Apple's own online store, and the former usually only have pre-configured -- and very limited -- units for sale. As most Mac Pro sales are custom-configured, buying direct from Apple remains the best option for most customers.