updated 03:40 pm EST, Mon January 21, 2013
New designs are very complex to build, cause sales drop
In a strange turn of events, the 21.5-inch iMac's ship times in the UK Apple Store have slipped to 2-3 weeks instead of the usual 7-10 days, while the rare 27-inch iMac continues to hold its ship time steady at 3-4 weeks. Both machines, which use new screen-lamination and friction-stir welding techniques, are said to be difficult to assemble, and this may be a warning that the in-demand desktops are coming into another period of short supply. The situation could also be temporary, and just reflect strong demand versus limited supply.
So far, shipping times in the US store are unaffected by the shortage, with 21.5-inch iMacs at a 7-10 day wait and the even more complex-to-assemble 27-inch model shipping in 3-4 weeks time, reports AppleInsider. Apple had previously warned customers that the new iMacs would be in short supply for the first few months of availability, though few expected the issues to run into the new year. The 27-inch iMacs have perpetually been in tight supply from the day they were introduced in October.
At least some of the problems are said to be the fault of display supplier LG Display, which has allegedly had issues with the full-lamination process. The technique removes any separation between the screen and the protective glass shield, shaving away a 2mm air space and giving the screen a clearer, more bonded look. Graphics on the display look more like they are part of the glass rather than behind it.
Apple CEO Tim Cook will likely have to address the issue when he faces financial analysts on Wednesday with the company's fiscal Q1 2013 results. In addition to revealing numbers from the previous quarter's holiday sales, Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer are likely to get a number of questions involving long-term and short-term supplier parts orders and pricing as well as inventory levels and other nuts and bolts of operations. Rumors of difficulties with some iPhone parts and suppliers have helped drive Apple stock downward over the past four months, and the shortage of iMacs is likely to result in a year-over-year drop in Mac sales.