June 15, 2012 at 2:21 PM ET
The latest object of adoration in the tech world is Apple's new MacBook Pro, with its sleek exterior and high-resolution display. But it's proving hard to find: as stock runs low, online orders are not expected to ship for three to four weeks, and stores are getting limited inventory.
Is it a ploy by Apple to keep their luxury item scarce and desirable? Or can they literally just not make them fast enough? As much as Apple's savvy market tactics might suggest the former, in all likelihood they really are just in short supply. Even Apple Stores can't get enough — one store in Seattle reported that they'd received only a handful of the laptops, and even then they were strictly for display purposes. Customers looking to buy would be helped through the online purchasing process.
Blame the Retina display. This type of high-quality display, both in the MacBook and previously in the iPad, has been nothing but trouble for manufacturers. Samsung, Sharp, LG and others have all been aiming at producing the high-resolution panels, but the amount they could successfully create was limited. Why, only they could tell you, but it most likely has to do with the precision needed to create the tiny sub-pixel machinery — no easy task even for less advanced displays.
The other parts of the laptop aren't nearly so thin on the ground. Apple famously has control over a huge amount of the world's advanced aluminum milling lines, so the unibody construction is no problem. The flash memory, RAM, CPU and graphics chips may be in a custom configuration, but they aren't themselves exotic — just fairly high-quality off-the-shelf parts.
Chances are that every factory that can reliably manufacture Retina displays is working literally around the clock to produce as many as physically possible. And after Apple's initial stockpile ran out, that amount just isn't enough.
As demand tapers off and more factories are added to the process, the wait should be reduced. But how long that will take is anyone's guess. In the meantime, you can find them on eBay — for a hefty markup, naturally.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.