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Can you guess the price of Apple's new Mac Pro?

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June 28, 2013

Just in case you're wondering, Apple's new and upcoming top-of-the-line desktop computer doesn't have a price tag yet, although some experts already anticipate that it could cost more than double Apple's current desktop model. In its very traditional habit before any product is formally introduced, Apple detailed just a few specs here and there, but did show off a few prerelease versions of the new hardware to attendees at its annual developers conference earlier this month.

However, there are still many unknowns as to just what Apple will put inside that new awkword-looking machine-- details that have just a dramatic impact on what it costs to buy one.

For the past ten years or so, previous Apple entry-level desktop models have been priced at around $2,500. So how much will this one costs when it arrives later this year?

We reached out to IHS iSuppli to find out, and the answer is not so simple. Based on some approximate estimates of comparable hardware, components, and labor, just the raw cost of the machine could total $2,800, the iSuppli said.

If you do the math, that's $300 more than the price Apple sells its existing, entry-level model for. Ramp it up with a higher-end processor, more SSD storage and RAM, and that could climb to $4,755.

Of course, none of that is taking into account the extra cost that goes on top, where Apple makes its profit on the product.

So why is the price so hard to figure out? Many of the components that are going into the new computer have merely been stated by Apple, but not detailed. That includes three of the most important, and also most expensive, parts: the processor itself, the graphics chips, and the flash storage, which are all bleeding edge.

Apple has said it plans to use Intel's latest Xeon E5 series chips and AMD FirePro GPUs to power the machine, both of which could send the cost up drastically, depending on what configuration Apple begins with at the entry level.

For example, those Xeon chips can cost well past $2,000, though Apple gets deep discounts from buying in bulk. The graphics cards could be even more, as Apple is making dual GPUs a standard feature.

Also unclear is built-in storage, which IHS expects to start at 512 GB. Even if the two estimates end up being in the ballpark of the retail price, it shouldn't be too shocking for most Mac Pro buyers, who Apple has described as video editors, musicians, photographers, and high-end graphic designers.

A 12-core version of the existing model starts at $3,799, and can ramp up to more than $12,350 if you add in all the bells and whistles.

But there might simply not be that much room for adjusting the hardware in this machine. Apple's done away with the idea of a case that can be opened up and tweaked, in favor of loading the back up with high-speed I/O ports, like USB 3 and Thunderbolt 2 devices.

And one other thing to keep in mind is that Apple plans to make this machine in the United States. At first, this might seem like it would add more to the cost versus making it overseas, though IHS says that's probably not the case for a high-end product like this.

"When you're talking thousands of dollars to build hardware (high-end items like the GPU and CPUs) the cost of putting it all together is almost noise," says Andrew Rassweiler, the senior director of cost benchmarking services at IHS.

For something like a phone, a jump in labor from $10 to $20 dollars would be a real disaster, he says. But U.S.-based service providers want to do smaller runs of hardware, and overseas manufacturers have designed businesses around producing high volume products like phones, and would charge more for something like a high-end desktop.

Apple is expected to detail all the options, along with a price and firm release date, at an event later this year. In the meantime, the company has been steering potential Mac Pro shoppers toward waiting for the newer model.

In other it news

Oracle and Salesforce have announced a partnership after years of throwing spears at one another, leading observers to ask what is going on in the IT industry.

News of the broad alliance between Salesforce and Oracle was announced yesterday, and will see Salesforce use Oracle's software and hardware, and Oracle will integrate with its own human capital management applications.

The nine-year contract guarantees Oracle a major customer, and gives Salesforce greater selling opportunities within Oracle environments-– and this is crucial these days, given Oracle's commitment to growing its share of the IT industry.

Of course, this comes as a bit of a surprise, given Larry Ellison's classification of Salesforce's cloud as a "roach motel" in October 2011, and Salesforce chief Marc Benioff's labeling of Oracle's on-premise tech as a "false cloud" in 2010.

But when you think about it, 'manufactured controversy' is still a way to stay relevant in an era defined by nimbler, smaller competitors, it would appear.

Given the manner the alliance was formed at the last minute, this could be a risky proposition as the combined Oracle and Salesforce offerings threaten its integrated suite of management systems.

It also highlights how Oracle has been forced to partner to retain relevance in a fast-moving world that deals mostly in the Cloud, and this announcement stacks on top of Oracle coming into Azure via a Microsoft tie-in, and the blessing of Dell as the company's preferred x86 box integrator.

The alliance comes after a series of weaker quarters for Oracle, during which the database giant has seen revenues in its much talked-up hardware division shrink.

Source: Apple.

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