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iMac hopefuls face longer waits

Strong demand for Apple Computer's new top-of-the-line iMac means later delivery dates for prospective buyers.

Strong demand for Apple Computer's new top-of-the-line iMac means a longer wait for prospective buyers.

According to Apple's online store, new orders for the 800MHz iMac with SuperDrive will now ship in three to five weeks, rather than the two to four weeks initially stated. The model was supposed to be available in late January, according to the company's press release when it unveiled the new line of flat-panel desktop computers on Jan 7.

The new delivery dates will push availability into early February for customers just placing orders now. According to a sales representative at Apple's call center, orders made last week will still be delivered during the two- to four-week period.

The 700MHz iMac with the CD-rewritable/DVD combo drive is still slated to be available in February, and the 700MHz iMac with the CD-RW drive is still set to be available in March.

In Apple's latest quarterly report, issued earlier this week, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company had said that initial orders were already exceeding expectations and that it could take the company most of the quarter to beef up production.

Apple also said it expected that demand would likely exceed supply all quarter. To help meet the demand, Apple plans to spend millions of dollars to fly in new iMacs from Taiwan throughout the quarter, instead of shipping the bulk of the machines by boat.

The company also said it plans to accept lower profit margins on the flat-panel iMac than it got from the original iMac in an effort to price the machines competitively and drive sales.

The Mac maker is counting on customers' enthusiasm for the new flat-panel machines to boost its sales in the current quarter. It said it expects the systems to account for more than half of iMac sales during the three-month period.'s Ian Fried contributed to this report.