As Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) approached last week, a troubling issue hit people trying to order new Macs. For some configurations, customers were told they'd have to wait until August to get their Macs. their new machines. Certainly, many of these delays involve systems with additional memory or storage. But you can't upgrade many Macs after you buy them, so for some, this issue is non-trivial.
How serious is the problem? Apple 14 and 16 inches. MacBook Pro laptops, on sale since last fall, are weeks away from delivery. If you order now, you'll have to wait until at least July 28, and possibly into August, before the new hardware arrives. Worse yet: the 24-inch base. The iMac, if ordered now, won't be available for "nine to 10 weeks," according to Apple's online store. (Higher-end iMacs are available immediately, though.)
Many reports of delay come from upset consumers. But the continued delay has had a huge impact on education and business customers.
I will first focus on how supply chain issues have affected the education market, because it has been the most hindered.
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Delays affect education more
As anyone who has worked in education, K-12, or higher education knows, summer break is the only time of year to replace, upgrade, or retire your fleet of computers and tablets. For this reason, the life cycle of devices in schools is developed almost entirely around the summer holidays.
If these delays mean a school can't buy enough Macs to upgrade its fleet this summer, that school won't get another chance for a full year. Schools don't get much more than a week's break in a year, and a week isn't a realistic time frame to complete lifecycle management or updates.
Colleges and universities, in theory, could better withstand these delays. Winter breaks between semesters usually last several weeks. IT teams often use this break to manage large projects, such as upgrading technology, archiving student work, and training faculty and staff. While it's not ideal to perform major lifecycle management tasks during this short break, it's at least possible. I never did a device lifecycle update during that short break between semesters, but when I was in higher education, I did manage a full system update in several Mac-specific labs.
Businesses and small businesses are likely to be less affected by these delays. Typically, a non-educational business can perform a phased or full-lifecycle upgrade at any time of the year because they don't have prolonged interruptions to their business operations. But the next version of macOS Ventura, which will drop support for a wide range of Macs as part of Apple's effort to move customers to Apple Silicon, changes the math a bit, especially for companies that rely largely on or entirely on Mac.
What happened at Apple?
One of the biggest factors behind the new Mac delays is the supply chain slowdown that has affected businesses in many industries. However, with Apple unveiling new M2-based MacBooks at WWDC (they won't be available until July), Apple may allow some of its products to be restricted to encourage people to buy these upcoming models.
(I've certainly suspected them of this type of strategy before.)
It's also important to note that buyers aren't experiencing these delays through many Apple resellers. Some Apple trading partners, including Amazon, are offering Macs without too much delay. However, most business and education customers tend to order directly from Apple, as it ensures that they can easily add their new Macs to Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager and enable zero-touch deployments.
Some Apple resellers can add your purchases to Apple School Manager and Apple Business Manager, but it can be difficult to determine which resellers can do this. It may also mean that you have to work with a provider that you don't have a previous relationship with or that doesn't offer the discount you need. Schools and government agencies often get discounts when they buy from certain vendors, and some of these groups must use specific vendors each time they purchase technology.
Purchasing from unsupported vendors
To maneuver through the current delays, you may have to shop around. It's easier and faster to buy directly from Apple, or from an Apple-endorsed vendor, but it's possible to buy from other companies. This is likely to add a few steps to the process and may not allow for a hands-off deployment. But, if you're in crisis, it's worth considering.
If you try, you'll need to use Apple Configurator to set up new Macs and attach them to Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager. This requires booting up each Mac and using the Apple Configurator app for iPhone released by Apple last year to establish the connection. This process is not difficult. In effect, it's like setting up an Apple Watch. Point the iPhone camera at an animation that appears on the Mac's setup screen to start the process. However, this can take time if you add a large number of Macs.
What should you do?
Given the current delays, you have to make some decisions to navigate it. The first question to ask yourself is whether you need this custom Mac setup, especially if the standard option is available. And if the standard option is delayed, can you substitute a different model that is available now?
The next question, if you need to configure this system to order, can you delay the purchase?
If neither of these solutions are possible, your next step would be to see if you can buy from a distribution partner that allows automatic connection to Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager.
If that's not an option, you'll need to source from another vendor and manually add the new Macs. This will take more time and resources, so you'll need to plan for this as well.
Ultimately, the question comes down to how important this purchase is to your organization. Neither of these options, or the compromises you'll be forced to make, are likely to be ideal for your situation. So consider this: There may be benefits to delaying your purchase altogether. If you wait, you may be able to buy newer, more powerful machines than Apple's delayed custom upgrade.
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