Apple did not reply to questions Tuesday about why customers could not pre-order a new iMac when the older models had disappeared.
Earlier this year, there were rumors that Apple would refresh the iMac in the fourth quarter, and that shipments would be delayed. Much of that speculation, however, focused on the iMac receiving a Retina-style display, which did not happen Tuesday. Other reports last summer predicted a slower-than-normal ramp-up of iMacs because of supplier issues.
Those may have to do with the iMac's new screen, which Philip Schiller, head of Apple's marketing, said yesterday had been reengineered by reducing its thickness and laminating the glass to the screen. "We've never laminated a display this large to glass," said Schiller. "But the benefits are huge."
The inability of customers to pre-order the new machines took NPD's Baker by surprise. "It's weird that they would not offer pre-order, it costs them nothing and doesn't impact what's out there [in the channel] today," said Baker.
He offered two explanations for the lack of pre-orders.
"Maybe what they're doing is trying to get customers to buy what they have left over [of the earlier models]," Baker said. "Or maybe there is some company philosophy where they're just not comfortable taking pre-orders for products that far out. But it's surprising, since there doesn't seem to be any additional cost to do that."
Other experts didn't see the no-sales-now issue as a problem for Apple, even though the holiday sales season, traditional strong for Mac sales, is quickly approaching. Apple, for example, sold more Macs in the fourth quarter each of the last three years than in any other quarter.
"As long as Apple has a lot of inventory by the middle of November they will be okay," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email Tuesday. "Sounds like there's a possibility of delays [beyond Apple's stated ship times."
"I doubt they will miss out on the holiday sales," echoed Milanesi of Gartner.
In the last four quarters that Apple has reported earnings, it has sold approximately, 5 million desktops, the vast majority of them iMacs. In the same span, it sold 13.2 million notebooks.
The 5 million iMacs translates into just over 96,000 desktops sold each week.
Baker rejected the idea that Apple was not selling iMacs of some sort. "People get way too hung up on the website," Baker cautioned. "The Web is not even half their volume, they do more in their own retail stores and others. There are older iMacs out there."
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