Apple now shipping MacBook Air laptops, but no stock in stores

And it postpones free software update for older Apple TVs

Apple Inc. announced today that it has begun shipping the first MacBook Air laptops to customers, but the company acknowledged that a planned update to Apple TV has been delayed for up two weeks.

The company's newest laptop, which CEO Steve Jobs called the "world's thinnest" computer when he unveiled it two weeks ago at San Francisco's Macworld, is shipping as of today, Apple said. The 3-lb. portable, which retails for $1,799 in its base configuration with a 1.6-GHz IntelCore 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory and a 13.3-in. LED-backlit display, is also supposed to be available at retail, in both the company's own stores and its resellers.

Several calls to Apple retail stores in New York, Oregon and elsewhere, however, failed to turn up a MacBook Air. "We haven't gotten our filthy little hands on them yet," said a sales representative at the store on West 14th St. in Manhattan. When told that Apple had announced the Air's availability, however, he added: "That's good news. It means we'll have them in in two days."

He expects that his store will stock both the base model and the $3,098 configuration that features a slightly faster processor and swaps out the traditional platter-based hard drive for a faster 64GB SSD (solid-state drive) built from flash memory.

The computer and consumer electronics maker also revealed a delay in the free software update for current owners of Apple TV, the content-serving appliance that Jobs said is central to Apple's entry into downloaded movie rentals.

"The new Apple TV software update ... is not quite finished," Apple said in a statement today. "Apple now plans to make the free software download available to existing Apple TV customers in another week or two." When Jobs touted the revamped Apple TV on Jan. 15, he said the update would be delivered in about two weeks.

Apple did not provide a reason for the delay, saying only: "The new Apple TV software will be available as a free automatic download to all Apple TV customers within two weeks." New Apple TV units -- which cost $229 for a 40GB model and $329 for a 160GB device -- will also require the update, as they currently ship with the older software.

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