Analyst: iBook delay likely

Shipments of Apple's new iBook portable computer may be interrupted because of Tuesday's earthquake in Taiwan, an analyst said Wednesday.Lou Mazzucchelli, PC analyst for Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co.

Shipments of Apple's new iBook portable computer may be interrupted because of Tuesday's earthquake in Taiwan, an analyst said Wednesday.

Lou Mazzucchelli, PC analyst for Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co. Inc. of New York, said it's too soon to know the full extent of damage to the Taiwan manufacturing plant where iBooks are exclusively produced, "but there's likely to be some disruption."

"In the worst-case scenario, Apple will have to scramble to get someone else to build these things," Mazzucchelli told MacWEEK. "In the best-case scenario, it's just a minor disruption. The reality will probably fall somewhere in between."

Apple spokeswoman Rhona Hamilton said late Wednesday that the company has not seen an "immediate impact" on product availability as a result of the earthquake. "It's too early to assess the full situation, but preliminary reports suggest there is no significant damage to our suppliers in the region," she said.

Apple employs several contractors in Taiwan, including AlphaTop and Quanta, to manufacture its portable systems.

"We're still trying to figure out the nature of the damage to the facility in Taiwan," Mazzucchelli said. "Apparently it's not damaged severely; it's running on backup power, as are most of the manufacturing plants there. The biggest problem may be getting employees back to work; they're off caring for their families and getting their homes back in order."

Warehouse intact, workers concerned
Kelly Johnson, business unit director for the Mac division of wholesale distributor Ingram Micro Inc., said the Taiwan quake "might have an impact [on delivery], but we've had no word on this from Apple." Johnson said Apple did inform her that the company's warehouse in Taiwan is intact, but she wondered whether road conditions, as well as worker concerns, might delay shipments.

One week ago, Apple iCEO Steve Jobs announced that iBooks had started shipping to dealers in the United States, and retailers said the new portables would likely appear on store shelves Sept. 25-26.

Johnson had said last week that iBooks were due to arrive at Ingram's warehouse by Friday, Sept. 17, but on Wednesday she said they had not yet arrived. Nonetheless, "We are still anticipating meeting the street date of Sept. 25-26," she said.

Mazzucchelli confirmed that iBooks had started shipping from the Taiwan plant before the earthquake hit.

Jobs unveiled the $1,599 iBook during July's Macworld Expo/ New York. The portable computer, which is aimed at home users, will come in Blueberry- or Tangerine-color cases and will feature AirPort, new wireless technology that allows users to connect to the Internet while working up to 150 feet from a base station.

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