Apple today announced that it will start selling its redesigned iMac desktop computers Friday, barely making a self-set deadline to ship some by the end of the month.
The smaller 21.5-in. iMac -- Apple's most popular desktop -- will be available at the company's online and retail stores, as well as select authorized resellers, on Friday at prices starting at $1,299. Previously, Apple had promised to deliver that model in November.
The larger 27-in. iMac, which starts at $1,799, will be available for pre-order Friday, but won't ship until next month, Apple said.
Apple introduced the new all-in-one desktop Macs on Oct. 23, but said then that the computers would not ship for weeks without explaining why. Two days later, during the company's quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the delays and said iMac supplies would be "constrained for the full quarter in a significant way."
The availability delays were unprecedented. Since the new iMacs' Oct. 23 unveiling, Apple has had none to sell on its online store, having also pulled the previous generation machines from the market. The company's phone ordering desk was also unable to place orders.
While it's not unusual for Apple to announce new hardware and pause several days before starting to take pre-orders, it was unorthodox of the detail-oriented company to reveal a product, defer shipping for weeks or even months, not accept pre-orders from customers, and at the same time withdraw the just-superseded models from sales.
The new iMacs feature Intel's "Ivy Bridge" 2.7GHz or 2.9GHz quad-core Core i5 processors, 8GB of memory, 1TB hard drives, and Nvidia graphics chipsets with 512MB of RAM. The desktops also shun optical drives -- the last of Apple's computer lines to dump the devices -- and retained the previous models' screen sizes and resolutions.
The iMacs are also substantially thinner, measuring just 5mm (0.2-in.) at their edges.
Another addition trumpeted by Apple last month was "Fusion Drive," an option that combines 128GB of flash storage with a standard platter-based hard drive of between 1TB and 3TB. The hybrid drive will significantly speed up some chores, such as starting the iMac and opening often-used applications.
It's still unknown how much Apple will charge for the new iMacs' Fusion Drive: On the Mac Mini, the single option of 1TB runs $250.
The new desktops cost $100 more than their predecessors, with pre-configured 21.5-in. models priced at $1,299 and $1,499, and the 27-in. iMacs at $1,799 and $1,999.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.