Mac Pro shortage sets record as worst Mac production boondoggle

Four months into sales and the backlog's <i>still</i> 4 to 6 weeks; beats iMac debacle of 2012-13

Apple's inability to meet demand for its Mac Pro desktop computer has surpassed that of its most egregious Mac production problem in memory, the debacle over the all-in-one iMac of late 2012 and early 2013.

Currently, Apple's online store shows the Mac Pro as backordered by four to six weeks, meaning new orders won't ship until mid- to late-May.

Apple first unveiled the Mac Pro in June 2013 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but did not start selling the distinctive cylindrical desktop computer until Dec. 19, 2013.

That's nearly four months ago. And there is no supply-meets-demand balance in sight.

Apple's biggest Mac production screw-up of the past was in 2012, when the company announced a redesigned iMac line in late October but didn't begin selling the all-in-one systems until Nov. 30, 2012.

Three months after the new iMac's on-sale date, the shipping delay had been trimmed to one to three days.

Apple CEO Tim Cook ended up regretting the 2012 iMac introduction and slow roll-out, which was a major cause of a 22% decline in Mac revenue in that year's fourth quarter. "If we could run it over, frankly I would have announced the iMac after the turn of the year, because we felt our customers had to wait too long for that specific product," Cook said during a January 2013 conference call with Wall Street.

While the paucity of Mac Pros probably won't have a similar impact on Mac revenue -- the pricy personal computers will likely compose only a very small fraction of the line's unit sales -- it wouldn't be surprising to hear Cook issue another mea culpa on April 23, when Apple issues its first-quarter earnings and its executives take questions from Wall Street analysts.

Apple's earnings call will begin at 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET) next Wednesday.

The Mac Pro starts at $2,999 and can be configured with a price tag of $9,599.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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