Tim Cook's worst fears may be coming true. Even though the Apple CEO predicted a "significant shortage" of components built specifically for the redesigned 2012 iMacs, French site MacBidouille, citing a "commercial source," said the two iMac models set to be released in November and December will be pushed back until 2013, missing the all-important holiday shopping season.
"We just learned from a commercial source that Apple has delayed the release of the iMac announced three weeks ago," MacBidouille wrote. "While the model output 21.5 'was scheduled for Nov. 27 and that' for December, it is possible now that the range [of] the holiday season."
Since this negative news was released late last night, Apple's stock on Thursday dropped from $537 this morning to $525 around noon eastern time, and continues to hover around that mark. It's been a mighty fall since late September, when AAPL stock breached $700 a share.
There is no official word from Apple yet on the status of the iMacs, but if the computers are delayed and Apple provides no reason for it, it's most likely due to the extremely complicated and intensive process used to create each ultra-thin iMac.
“This is so thin we wanted to do something even more with it," explained Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of marketing, at Apple's Oct. 23 media event. "The way this is welded is called friction stir welding.”
By laminating the display directly to the glass, Apple was able to remove all air gaps from the computer, making the entire display system 45 percent thinner. This process, which is only achieved by welding a system of aluminum under a highly-pressurized system, is reportedly a similar process used to assemble aircraft wings, including the Airbus A380.
Apple was also able to make the iMac even more "amazingly thin" by removing the computer's optical drive and reeingereering the internal components. At its very thinnest point (the edge), the new iMac is just 5 mm thin, which is 80 percent thinner than the previous generation. The desktop also weighs eight pounds lighter than the previous generation.
Days after the 2012 iMacs were unveiled, Tim Cook predicted this extensive manufacturing process would affect delivery times. During Apple's conference call with investors on Oct. 25, Cook was asked by Scott Craig of Bank of America Merrill Lynch if he was concerned about component constraints affecting the launch of future products like the iPad or iPhone. In his answer, Cook said he wasn't worried about iPhone or iPad, but very concerned about a different product: The iMac.
"In terms of general shortages, the iMac will be constrained for the full quarter in a significant way," Cook told investors. "Part of that is that we're beginning shipping the 21.5-inch iMac and November and the 27-inch in December, so there will be a short amount of time during the quarter to manufacture and ramp those, and I expect the demand to be robust. So we will have a significant shortage there."
If the 2012 iMacs are in fact delayed until next year, Apple will suffer greatly, especially in this immediate quarter. The company's stock has been dropping off ever since it peaked in September -- shortly before the company's iPhone 5 unveiling -- and this would be very bad news for a company that's typical been good at shipping on time, but not so recently. Apple has been dealing with display and component shortages from its supply and manufacturing companies in Asia, a problem that's only compounded with ever-increasing demand from consumers, especially for the iOS products that use those all-important screens and parts.
Apple's even been a bit sloppy on the software end recently. After replacing Google Maps with its own half-baked alternative in iOS 6 -- and receiving plenty of backlash for it -- Apple also delayed the release of iTunes 11, which was supposed to release at the end of October but will now release later this month.
Apple will have a great holiday season this year, but the 2012 iMac was positioned perfectly to be the major surprise product for the Thanksgiving and Christmas push. Starting at just $1,299, these ultra-sleek iMacs aren't just a fashion statement, but they're also a powerhouse: Apple's new iMacs contain up to 3TB of storage with a Core i5 or i7 processor, but more importantly, the newly-redesigned desktops come in different storage options, letting customers choose what they want: A hard drive for storage, a flash SSD for speed, and a brand-new third option called the Apple Fusion Drive, which contains 128 GB of flash storage with 1TB or 3TB of HDD, which is fused into a single volume. As a result, the new Fusion Drive performs almost as quickly as Flash, but it keeps documents significantly more secure on the HDD.
The 21-inch iMac features a 2.7GHz quad-core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, a GeForce GT 640M and 1TB of HDD. The 27-inch model features a 2.9GHz quad-core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 660M, and a 1TB HDD. The 21-inch flavor costs $1,299 while the the 27-inch iMac $1,799, and Apple was expected to release the models in November and December, respectively.
Hopefully, the report of this delay was preemptive, and Apple actually does deliver the iMacs on time. The company won't be able to keep up with demand, but it would be better than missing the holiday season altogether. As Steve Jobs once said, "Real artists ship."