So much for things being different this time around, right? We know we've already raised the subject of the iPod shuffle's demand exceeding its supply by insane degrees despite Apple's valiant attempts to avoid repeating last year's iPod mini debacle, but we'd really hoped it was just a launchtime bubble that would flatten out in a week or two. Well, apparently it wasn't-- and now the problem no longer seems limited to iPods, either. Apparently people looking to grab themselves a nice, shiny fistful of Mac mini are finding the cupboards bare, too. High demand? That bodes well for Apple's unit sales and market share... assuming that the company can ever crank out enough minis 'n' shuffles to meet demand. According to the latest numbers, that may be a bigger "if" than you might think.
According to MacMinute, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster earned his paycheck by calling each and every one of Apple's 98 retail stores to see how many iPod shuffles they had available to sell. Guess how many he found? Zero. As in, zilch. Diddly-squat. Captain Goose Egg and his trusty sidekick Nothing Boy. Can you believe it? 98 retail stores and not a single iPod shuffle to be found. And what's worse, each store keeps a waiting list for customers who want to reserve a shuffle for when the shipments finally start coming in-- and the average length of those waiting lists is a staggering 120 customers. Average.
The Mac mini fared slightly better, and when we say "slightly," boy howdy do we ever mean it: Gene actually found a grand total of three of those in stock. No, he didn't specify which store or stores had them, and the point is probably moot anyway, because the way demand seems to be stacking up, those three Mac minis probably sold to some wild-eyed guy (who fought his way to the front of the mob by beating everyone else to death with his own severed right arm) before Gene had even hung up the phone. And the average waiting list length is shorter, too, but still, 18 people per store is nothing to sneeze at.
Meanwhile, AppleInsider adds that its own "reliable sources" have access to Apple inventory and sales data confirming the delivery date slide: a week ago, Mac minis and iPod shuffles showed lead times of just 3 and 4 days respectively; now those times have ballooned into 3 and 4 weeks. So what does all this mean? Well, Gene says "we believe initial demand for the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle has exceeded what Apple had been expecting," which may just win both a "Just Slightly" award for the most gratuitous use of understatement in a serious screenplay and the coveted "This Is An Award" award for the week's most shining example of stating the blindingly obvious.
Unfortunately, insanely high demand for a product is useless unless the manufacturer can dish out an insanely high supply to match; the good news, though, is that reportedly most stores "expected to have ample supply by the end of February." Whether or not that winds up just being unfounded optimism remains to be seen, of course, but we've got a good feeling about it. After all, have you seen the iPod shuffle and Mac mini? They're teeny. Seriously, how long could it take to make a bunch of those?