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G3 notebook dearth decried

While Apple races to build enough snazzy iMacs, the supply of another curvaceous Macintosh product remains tight.

While Apple Computer races to build enough snazzy iMacs to meet the 150,000 orders it says are in hand, the supply of another curvaceous Macintosh product remains tight.

Apple's PowerBook G3 portable computers with 292-MHz PowerPC 750 processors and 14.1-inch screens have been a scarce commodity ever since they were introduced in May.

Moreover, the lack of the high-end units is

Apple G3 PowerBook
Apple G3 PowerBook
having a ripple effect on the availability of midrange 250-MHz PowerBooks as well. Six resellers representing a mix of retailers, catalog operations, and VARs (value added resellers) that sell mainly to businesses all noted an acute shortage of the top two notebook configurations.

"I've sold maybe 23 [of the 292-MHz PowerBooks] since April," said one anonymous reseller. "A lot of people shifted orders to the 250-MHz model, but there are still a large number of back orders of [the fastest systems]. If I had them, I could sell a lot more," he sighed.

The reports of shortages, which are a recurring problem for Apple, come as the company is cranking into high gear to get its all-in-one iMacs to retail stores this Saturday.

"We're delivering them," Mitch Manditch, senior vice president of worldwide sales at Apple, said of the PowerBooks. "[There is] very high demand around those products."

Resellers say systems are trickling in but at a maddeningly slow pace, and shoppers are getting antsy. "It's unfortunate for the customer," said one senior product buyer who wished to remain unnamed.

Plenty of the lower-end PowerBook G3 233-MHz systems are available, but customers have been shying away from these systems--even the ones with 14.1-inch screens--because they lack the performance enhancing "backside cache" memory and faster internal data paths offered by the other systems.

"I get dozens of emails every day about how people can't get this or that order," said Jason O'Grady, a mobile technology consultant with Web design and hosting firm Odyssey and editor of the widely read PowerPage Web site for PowerBook users.

A lot of people who ordered a 292-MHz system early on realized that they had a better chance of getting a system if they changed their order to a 250-MHz system, he added. "By the time more people began to realize this, that made even getting a 250-MHz system even harder," O'Grady noted.

He faulted some resellers who were giving customers delivery dates just to get customers to buy a system.