Apple has cut the shipping delay of iPad Mini tablets in half for U.S. and Canadian customers, now promising that the devices will ship in one week.
Meanwhile, Apple has increased shipping times for its new iMac desktops, simply posting "January" for the larger 27-in. model.
Last Thursday, Apple changed the delay between ordering and shipping an iPad Mini to one week on its U.S. and Canadian online stores. As of Monday, however, other markets where Apple sells the 7.9-in. tablet -- including Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. -- retained the two-week status.
Short supplies of the iPad Mini had been expected because of preliminary estimates -- later validated when Apple claimed it sold three million over the opening three-day weekend -- and because of display yield issues at AU Optronics (AUO), a Taiwanese company that only recently became an Apple supplier.
AUO stepped in to replace Samsung as an iPad display maker. Apple and Samsung, while still partners in some areas, are fierce rivals in others. The South Korean electronics giant has made massive inroads in the Android-powered smartphone and tablet markets with its Galaxy Note II "phablet" and Galaxy Tab 2 tablets.
Apple and Samsung are also locked in court battles over patent infringement charges in several jurisdictions.
While the iPad Mini's North American supply situation improved last week, the iMac's worsened. The 21.5-in. iMac, priced at $1,299 and $1.499, now displays "7-10 business days" between placing an order and the start of the shipping process. The more expensive 27-in. model, which runs $1,799 and $1,999, sports the hazy shipping label of "January."
The 27-in. iMac has not officially been released, but has been available for pre-order since Nov. 30, when Apple said it would ship the all-in-one desktop in one to two weeks. Days later, that grew to three to four weeks.
Although the iPad Mini's shortages are par for the Apple course, the iMac's extended delay is not: The weeks-long lag between the iMac's introductory and on-sale dates was very unusual for the detail-oriented company. To compound matters, Apple withdrew the previous generation from its online store in late October, leaving only existing inventories of the older models on its own store shelves and those of authorized resellers.
Not surprisingly, the iMac gaffe will affect sales. Analysts have predicted that Apple's desktop sales will drop by approximately 30% this quarter when compared to the record-setting fourth quarter of 2011.
27-in. iMacs will ship some time in January, Apple now tells customers.
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.
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