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TWO THIRDS of Retina iPad mini shoppers will weep this holiday season

Report: Asian supply problems to crimp Cook & Co.'s cash flow

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If someone on your holiday shopping list is a-hankerin' for Apple's just-released iPad mini with Retina display, you may want to get in line with the fanbois on the morning when the li'l fellas finally appear on store shelves sometime in November – there won't be many of them to go around.

According to the market-watchers at IHS, shipments of the 7.9-inch tablet "are expected to fall well short of demand in the fourth quarter due to limited production of the tablet's new Retina Display," the analytics group reported in an email.

From IHS's reading of supply-chain data, production restraints of the 2048-by-1536 pixel displays on the new fondleslabette will constrain shipments during the quarter to below four million, and perhaps even below three million.

By comparison, when the original iPad mini shipped in the fourth calendar quarter of 2012, Apple shipped 8.9 million of the original 9.7-inch iPad's little sibling – and they could have shipped more. "Actual demand for the original mini was well above the 8.9 million figure," IHS wrote, "leaving Apple with a huge backlog of orders for the mini at the start of 2013."

Shipments of Apple's iPad and iPad mini since their respective releases

Don't expect the dark-blue bar for Q4 2013 to be very high when it appears in IHS's next chart (source: IHS Inc)

IHS projects demand for the Retina mini to exceed that of its 1024-by-768 pixel predecessor in its first quarter, and if their current-quarter estimates are correct, "supply and demand will be severely out of balance," we're told.

"Apple is being rather vague about the exact availability date of the new iPad mini with Retina Display, simply stating that the product would ship later in November," said IHS director of tablet research Rhoda Alexander. "The company has good reason to be coy about the exact release date, given that supply of the new mini is going to be ridiculously tight in the fourth quarter."

Supplies of the Retina display panel should pick up "substantially" in the first quarter of 2014, IHS reported – but with a caveat: Chinese New Year falls on January 31, and that everybody-go-home-and-party holiday will likely keep supplies constrained into February or even March.

IHS also believes that the iPad mini has another problem facing its future success: its $399 base price is "substantially more" than that of both the earlier model iPad mini and the growing competition.

"By itself ... high resolution is insufficient to justify a selling price for the new mini that is $170 more than that of the new Google Nexus 7 tablet and the Kindle Fire HDX 7 from Amazon, each priced at $229 for similar pixel density," they wrote.

They do note, however, that "64-bit architecture, durability, ease of operating system upgrades and richness of the Apple ecosystem ... makes the math work." But only for some buyers: "The price point is likely to be a sticking point for value-centric consumers weighing the lure of Apple against the ever-expanding array of Android alternatives," the analysts opined.

It appears that the supply contraints on the iPad mini with Retina display will allow time for that ever-expanding Android clan to expand even further while Apple stuggles to fill its orders. ®

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