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Apple delays global launchof iPod mini to July

Apple is delaying worlwide sales of its new iPod mini digital music player until July due to stronger-than-expected demand in the United States.
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The iPod mini began shipping in the United States in February. Worldwide sales were originally set to start in Apri.Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

Apple Computer Inc. will delay global sales of its new iPod mini digital music player until July due to stronger-than-expected U.S. demand, Apple said on Thursday.

Tight supplies of the hard drive, which is at the core of the player, forced Apple to delay increasing manufacturing until July. U.S. demand has surpassed supply through June, according to Apple, whose shares rose 3 percent.

Apple said the problem lies with its supplier. "We're actually consuming just about all the 4 gigabyte, 1-inch drives they make. As they make more, we'll get more," said Greg Joswiak, Apple vice president of hardware product marketing.

Analysts said that Hitachi Ltd., which has said it makes nearly all of the cutting-edge one-inch drives that are made, is Apple's supplier. Neither Hitachi nor Apple have confirmed Hitachi makes the iPod drives.

Hitachi expects to boost production, Hitachi Storage Technologies Chief Executive Jun Naruse told Reuters earlier Thursday.

Apple began in February to ship the smaller version of its iPod music player, which is about the length and width of a business card, weighs about 3.6 ounces and holds 1,000 songs. It planned to ship worldwide in April.

The hard-drive delay comes as makers of popular consumer electronics face shortages of key parts industrywide due to underinvestment in new plants and capacity during the recent two-year semiconductor sector downturn.

Apple, best known for its Macintosh computers, has been buoyed by strong sales of its bigger iPod music player, which start at $299. The company's online music store, iTunes, is being used to help drive demand for the profitable handheld gadgets.

Apple uses its own proprietary technology for digital music that competes with the popular MP3 format and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media technology.

Apple currently holds the market on a 4-gigabyte music player, but companies such as D&M Holdings' Rio, Thomson SA and Creative Technology Ltd. make digital players that compete with the larger iPod and are launching models that compete with the smaller one too.

One analyst said iPod mini sales will likely be strong this quarter, but a limited supply may alienate some buyers.

"The big risk here is any time you are frustrating your potential customer, you create an opportunity for them to look for an alternate supplier," said Phil Leigh, senior analyst for market research firm Inside Digital Media.

"If somebody were all of a sudden to appear on the market with something that was similar to the iPod mini, that would not be good," Leigh said.

In February, Cupertino, California-based Apple said it planned to ship the smaller $249 iPod mini worldwide in April. It said then it had 100,000 preorders for the gadget.