5K Retina iMac back orders stretch to weeks

Shipping times from Apple's online store reach 2-3 weeks even as retail and resellers have systems in stock

5K iMac with Final Cut Pro
Susie Ochs

Apple's 5K Retina iMac continued to slip in ship times and is now back-ordered for two to three weeks.

On Thursday, the $2,499 iMac showed the delay on Apple's online stores for the U.S., the U.K., China, France, Germany and other countries. The new ship time was an increase from the five-to-seven business day lag of three weeks ago.

Apple introduced the 5K Retina iMac on Oct. 16 to effusive reviews, even though its price was 39% higher than the same configuration with a lower-resolution display. The day after Apple started selling the new iMac, its online store extended the shipping delay from one-to-two business days to three-to-five business days.

It was unclear when the latest increase hit the online store, although cached examples of the 5K Retina iMac's ordering page showed the longer delays on Monday.

However, spot checks found that the iMac was available at nearly every Apple retail store in the Pacific Northwest, California, the Midwest, New York and Boston.

Online resellers also reported that they had systems to sell: Amazon, MacConnection, MacMall and PowerMax, for example, all showed 5K Retina iMacs as in stock and ready to ship the same day as ordered. Some of those sellers had reduced the price of the iMac by $50, a measly 2% discount.

While the shortage may be due to heavy demand, it's more likely a lack of supply, with Apple prioritizing allocations to its retail stores and some resellers over that of its own online market. Most analysts have argued that because of its price, the 5K Retina iMac will appeal to a small pool of buyers, including professional creatives, such as photographers, video editors and graphics designers, and those who previously had leaned toward the cylindrical Mac Pro workstation, such as developers and engineers.

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 taking months to drop from weeks to days. The Cupertino, Calif., company also botched the rollout of the iMac in 2012, when it refreshed the design but then had almost none to sell for months. That gaffe resulted in an unusual admission by CEO Tim Cook that the company had launched too early.

The iPhone 6 Plus, which went on sale Sept. 19, also remains on a lengthy back order. As of today the 5.5-in. smartphone's ship time stood at three-to-four weeks.

It's most likely that the iMac's 5120-by-2880-pixel display is at the root of the shortage. NPD DisplaySearch has, for instance, said that tight supplies of TFT displays would relax only in 2015.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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