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Apple runs out of Retina MacBook Pros

Shipping delay already runs three to four weeks; eBay resellers cash in on shortage

Apple has exhausted supplies of its new $2,200 MacBook Pro that sports a high-resolution "Retina" screen, with the company's online store reporting a wait of three to four weeks by Tuesday's end.

Not surprisingly, someone is trying to cash in by listing the hard-to-find computer on eBay for $1,000 over list.

The 15-in. notebook -- which Apple has taken to tagging with the mouthful "MacBook Pro with Retina display" -- was introduced Monday during the keynote address that kicked off Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

As he closed his introduction of the laptop, Philip Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, said, "The best thing is, it's going to start shipping today." But by early Tuesday the Apple online store had changed the status to "Ships: 2-3 weeks."

Tuesday evening, both configurations of the notebook read, "Ships: 3-4 weeks."

Starting at $2,199, the MacBook Pro with Retina is Apple's first in the line equipped with SSD (solid-state drive) storage as part of the standard configuration. The notebook's case has been revamped -- it's significantly thinner than the still-sold MacBook Pro model of the same screen size -- and it relies on a new and more powerful Nvidia graphics processor, the GeForce GT650M, to drive the display. The notebook also followed the smaller MacBook Air line in doing without an optical drive.

But it was the display that earned the laptop early accolades.

Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, called it a "work of art" and said it was "the highest-resolution notebook display" available.

Macworld also praised the screen, describing it as "mindblowing." (Macworld, like Computerworld, is an IDG publication.)

But the Retina display could also be the bottleneck that's crimping supplies.

Experts have blamed much of Apple's initial inability to keep up with new iPad demand on the 9.7-in. Retina display; the tablet was Apple's first foray into higher-resolution screens larger than the iPhone's 3.5-in. display.

Shipping delays for the new iPad stretched as long as two to three weeks at one point, but rebounded to one to two weeks much faster than the 2011 iPad 2, which shipped to some buyers as many as five weeks after ordering. By early May, new iPads were leaving the warehouse three to five days after an order was placed.

But the MacBook Pro's screen has 65% more pixels than the new iPad's, and may be more difficult to make in quantity.

Before Monday, some analysts were skeptical that Apple would introduce a Retina-equipped laptop simply because they doubted that manufacturing yields would be sufficient.

"I'm not 100% sure that the [supply] channel can support [Retina on a laptop]," said Brian Marshall of the ISI Group in an interview last month.

Some figure to make a nice profit by dealing MacBook Pro with Retina notebooks during the time of shortages. On eBay, one seller listed the $2,199 model for $3,199, a 45% markup.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected].

Read more about laptops in Computerworld's Laptops Topic Center.


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