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Apple’s Bottlenecks?

On Thursday, Apple announced it would delay the release of its latest Mac operating system (“Leopard”)  until October (versus a planned spring birth announcement) in order to divert greater corporate resources to insure the on-time, June, delivery of the hotly anticipated iPhone.

Bloggers and professional journalists are speculating that the delay is really for other reasons. Apple Insider, a popular blog on Apple and its issues, is reporting Wall Street analysts suspect “Secret” features of the operating system are really to blame. 

While there is nothing to substantiate those claims, it is clear that in recent years delayed release of keenly anticipated Apple products has been common.  Whether this delay, or others, have been the result of unforeseen development issues, parts shortages, overstretched assembly lines at contract manufacturers (like Taiwanese company Inventec which makes 5th Generation video iPod’s and is rumored to be assembling the iPhone), the result of overly ambitious timelines inside Apple or even part of a marketing effort to inflate demand, is unclear.    


Looking back over the past few years, here are just a few of Apple’s delayed launches:

  • July 2004: iMacs – iMacs planned to replace the 2002 series of flat-panel iMacs were anticipated in June or early July but delayed until September – several months after existing inventory of iMacs was due to run out.  In a statement, Apple said “We planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time our inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously less than perfect.”
  • March 2004: iPod Mini – citing greater-than-expected demand for the iPod Mini in the United States, Apple delayed the overseas release by 3 months in order to “catch up.” "The iPod mini is a huge hit with customers in the U.S., and we’re sure it will be the same worldwide once we can ramp up our supply in the July quarter," Tim Cook, Apple’s executive vice president of worldwide sales, said.
  • February 2005: iPod Shuffle – Apple Stores unexpectedly began notifying customers who had ordered the 1GB Shuffle that the device would not be able to be delivered until mid-March. The stores has initialy been anticipating delivery around Februrary 22-25th.

  • November 2006: Macbooks–Apple announced delays in the shipment of 17–inch models of the newly revamped “Intel Inside” Macbook Pro notebook computers.  In an email to customers of the Apple stores, Apple wrote: “We are unable to ship your 17-inch MacBook Pro by the date given when you placed the order.  It is now expected to ship on or before 11/14/06. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause and we are making every effort to ship this unit as soon as possible."  Apple did not offer customers further explanation for the delay.   Speculation was that a component specific to the 17-inch models, such as casing element or the notebook’s 17-inch LCD display was responsible.
  • February 2007: Apple TV– On January 9th Steve Jobs announced to the world that the much anticipated Apple TV product would ship in February.  At the end of Feburary Apple announced it was “taking a few weeks longer than expected “ to finish and that the target is to have Apple TV  on store shelves by mid-March.  No explanation was provided.
  • April 2007: Leopard OS– delayed …citing efforts instead to keep iPhone on track instead.
  • June 2007 – iPhone????   Nothing other than the above pattern suggests delays with the iPhone, though FCC authorization is required for the device and could cause delays if Apple is not effective in managing that approval process. Analysts are all anxiously awaiting the phone’s release. If a snag slowing delivery should come up, it could hurt Apple’s stock price for the short term (as has happened with some past delays).  Even analyst speculation about delays, as was the case in 2006, could hurt the stock price. There is heavy expectation already built up and its reflected in Apple’s stock trading patterns and prices.

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