Retina MacBook still constrained by shipping delays

More than three months after it went on sale, Apple's Retina-equipped MacBook remains in short supply.

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More than three months after its on-sales debut, Apple's Retina-equipped MacBook laptop still remains in short supply, with orders delayed two to three weeks before shipping, according to the company's website.

Apple introduced the MacBook March 9 and started selling the notebook on April 10. The $1,299 resurrection of a dumped brand name boasts a 12-in. high-resolution screen and weighs in at 2 lbs., 15% less than the previous lightweight winner in the firm's mobile line, the 11-in. MacBook Air.

The laptop has been panned for being too slow and for offering just a single port -- a USB-C jack so new that few devices support it -- and applauded for pointing the way to a future of even lighter, thinner notebooks.

But it's also been in short supply since it hit Apple's online store. On the e-market, the MacBook's ship date quickly went from two-to-three business days (at the April 10 opening) to three to four weeks (by the end of that day) to four to six weeks (by April 13).

Those times later improved to the current two to three weeks, where they remain.

Potential buyers of the MacBook have also been pushed to order online. Checks today of Apple retail stores in the Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Portland, Ore. metro areas again failed to find any that had the new notebook in stock and available for immediate pickup after placing an online order.

That emphasis on online ordering was new for Apple. The company's head of retail and online sales, Angela Ahrendts, told employees that the online-only sales approach was a "very unique situation" that would not become the new norm. Since then, Apple has begun selling the Apple Watch -- which was also restricted to online orders along with the MacBook -- in some stores.

Backorders are not unusual for Apple products, but Macs typically reach a supply-demand balance faster than the the three-months-and-counting of the MacBook. One of the recent exceptions was the redesigned Mac Pro, which launched in mid-December 2013 but quickly slipped to a February 2014 delivery. As late as April 2014, new Mac Pro orders were to be shipped four to five weeks later.

Apple has said nothing of the delays in getting MacBooks to customers -- the laptop went on sale after the end of first quarter, the most recent for which Apple has held a conference call with Wall Street -- but two weeks after its sales debut, Ahrendts boasted that, "[It's] one of the best MacBook launches that we've ever had" in a video to store workers.

Production issues may be part of the problem, as could demand or a combination of the two. As for the former, the new MacBook uses several new components, including a redesigned keyboard, a much smaller logic board and battery cells molded to fit virtually all the space within the body.

Ironically, several third-party retailers have stock in hand, ready to sell or ship. Best Buy, one of Apple's largest retail partners, can get a new MacBook to customers by Tuesday with express shipping (although in-store pick-up is not available). Amazon will ship a gold MacBook by July 25, and others that sell via the online giant have the laptop available for immediate shipping. B&H, another large seller of Macs, also has some models in stock that can ship tomorrow and arrive as early as Tuesday.

Apple will hold its next call with Wall Street analysts on July 21, starting at 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET), where it may talk about the supply imbalance of the MacBook, although certainly not specific sales numbers.

This story, "Retina MacBook still constrained by shipping delays" was originally published by Computerworld.

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