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Apple insists its svelte new iMacs will hit UK shelves on Friday, but the company isn't forthcoming on how it'll push the computers into Blighty's distribution channel.

Suppliers last week told The Channel they do not expect the super-slim all-in-one Mac OS X machines to arrive in volume until January.

But Apple today confirmed the 21.5-inch model is just days away, and the 27-inch machine will begin shipping in December through the Apple website. This suggests there is limited demand and that Apple will fulfil sales directly, as is usual, before availability become less restricted.

"Redesigned from the inside out, the new iMac packs high performance technology into an aluminium and glass enclosure that measures just five mm thin at its edge," Apple said.

The two entry-level models start at £1,099 including VAT, and the 27-inch version will sell for an eye-watering £1,699 including VAT. The new iMacs feature aluminium-cased monitors 5mm thick at their edges thanks to British welding expertise.

Even if the super-slim iMacs do indeed ship in some volume, distribution centres have been running on empty since the end of November when the previous generation was discontinued.

"There was less stock on hand, so what was there of the old models was eaten up quite quickly. This means the gap in availability seems longer in the UK," said a big Apple partner.

"The biggest issue that I have with this gap is really that corporate clients - who do not have the same flexibility as consumers - are left out in the cold. Our business customers want to get the new machines now."

He questioned the timing of the product switchover, and said the PC supply chain was naturally stronger than Apple's because "you have manufacturers that fill the gaps if one is undergoing supply constraints".

One channel partner said the new iMacs en route may just be a couple of units that Apple Premium Resellers can stick in their shop windows. ®

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