5K Retina iMac supply tightens

Shipping times lengthen for second time since Apple launched the $2,499 iMac last week

5K iMac with Final Cut Pro

Apple's new 5K Retina iMac running Final Cut Pro.

Credit: Susie Ochs

Apple's 5K Retina iMac continues to slip in ship times, proof that the company's problem syncing supply and demand is getting worse, not better.

On Thursday, the $2,499 iMac showed a five-to-seven-day business delay between ordering and shipping.

Apple introduced the 5K Retina iMac on Oct. 16 to effusive reviews, even at a price 39% higher than the same 27-in. all-in-one sans the ultra-high-resolution display. On the day it started selling the new iMac, Apple's online store said there was a one-to-two-business-day delay before shipping. The next day that lengthened to three to five business days.

It was unclear when the shipping time stretched to five to seven days.

Retail availability is also currently spotty. While many of Apple's brick-and-mortar outlets reported that they had 5K Retina iMacs in stock, others were out. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, all three stores in the Portland, Ore. area had the new iMac on hand, while around Seattle, Wash., only three of five did.

It's unknown whether the shortage is due to heavy demand or a lack of supply, although analysts -- who have pegged the iMac as likely to appeal to professional creatives, like photographers, video editors and graphics designers -- would lean toward the latter.

Apple has a history of launching products into instant delays. Last year's December debut of the redesigned Mac Pro was the most egregious, with ship times immediately slipping to February. As late as mid-April, Apple told buyers that their Mac Pro purchases would ship four-to-six weeks after ordering.

Apple also botched the roll-out of the iMac in 2012, when it tweaked the design but then had almost none to sell for months. The gaffe resulted in overall Mac sales declining 22% in Q4 2012 compared to the same period the year before.

Because the vast bulk of the 5K Retina iMac is identical to the lower-resolution 27-in. model, the blame for the supply shortfall can be put on the shoulders of the 14.7-million-pixel display. NPD DisplaySearch has, for instance, predicted a tight supply of TFT displays, with notable shortages in the very thin glass that fronts high-end screens, including the iMac's.

"There are indications that materials and components may be tight or in shortage during 2015," DisplaySearch wrote in a research note last month. "Key suppliers of glass, polarizers and driver ICs have not expanded capacity very much."

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