Apple about ready to take Mac Pro orders, at long last

You’ll soon be able to order Apple’s newly revamped Mac Pro computer. No word yet, though, on when you’ll actually receive it.

The company announced Wednesday that it will start taking orders for its updated professional desktop model on Thursday. Consumers will be able to order and configure the device through Apple’s Web and retail stores and through its resellers.

But Apple didn’t say when the new computer will be on store shelves or how long customers should expect to wait to receive the long-awaited device.

Unveiled at the company’s developer conference in June, the new computer represents a radical redesign. Apple has packaged the new computer in a compact, cylindrical case that stands in contrast to the large boxy enclosures of its predecessors. That new case will prevent users from adding or revamping the computer’s internal components; by contrast, one of the hallmark features of the old Mac Pros was that they were easy to customize after users purchased them.

That design decision has already drawn criticism from some potential customers, partly because unlike previous models, the Mac Pro only ships with a flash drive and the biggest one consumers can get for it is one with a relatively paltry 1-terabyte of space. Instead of allowing users to customize the inside of the device, Apple has packed it with six speedy Thunderbolt ports into which users can plug external components such as hard drives.

For better or worse, some observers have likened the new computer to Apple’s PowerMac G4 Cube, an ill-fated model whose compact design similarly thwarted users from customizing it. Apple put the Cube “on ice” in 2001, less than a year after introducing it.

The device also might raise eyebrows because of its price. The starting price for the Mac Pro is $3,000 — and that’s without a monitor, keyboard or mouse and with only a 256-gigabyte flash drive.

Apple has touted the fact that the Mac Pro will be assembled in the United States. The company stopped making computers in the United States last decade, choosing instead to rely on contract manufacturers in Asia.

Although Apple updated some of the Mac Pro’s specifications last year, it hasn’t significantly revised the device in more than three years. And the new Mac Pro marks the first complete redesign of the computer since Apple launched it in 2006.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (225 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.