By Jon Fortt
April 13, 2007

Lost in the news of Apple’s (AAPL) delayed Leopard OS update is a nice turn of phrase the company offered in the first sentence of its announcement: “iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and

is on schedule to ship in late June as planned.”

Actually that sounds to me like the iPhone, too, will show up a bit later than planned.

I’m nitpicking, sure. But in Apple’s original statement about the iPhone, which you’ll find linked here, the company said “iPhone will be available in the US in June 2007.” (See the bottom of the release.)

As everyone in this business knows, there’s a difference between a product being “available” in June, and being “on schedule to ship in late June.” Things that ship in late June typically begin to show up in early July. They’re certainly not “available” in significant volume in June, which is what we would have hoped for.

So here’s what I’m expecting. Apple will indeed ship some quantity of iPhones – possibly a disappointingly small number – in late June. Remember, Apple has to fill an enormously complex supply chain of its own online and physical stores as well as thousands of AT&T’s (T) locations; it also has to arrange for in-store display of the iPhones and see to it that thousands of AT&T Wireless employees are trained to confidently demonstrate and troubleshoot a brand new device that few people outside of Apple headquarters have even touched at this point.

Even if Apple engineers do everything perfectly over the next two months, this type of launch will be extremely hard. Don’t forget, filling AT&T’s nationwide channel won’t happen in an instant. It will probably take months – especially since Apple clearly isn’t finished working on the software, and when Apple is done, its manufacturing partners will begin the challenging task of producing the things in volume for the first time. There will be kinks to work out. That’s the way these things work with the ramp of any product. And when there are kinks, you can expect supply shortages.

Don’t get me wrong – the iPhone could still be the magical product Apple promised in its statement yesterday. Sales probably will be stellar when it does arrive in sufficient volumes. These are just the realities of releasing the most eagerly anticipated mobile phone of all time, and doing it on a deadline.

So. The first iPhones might indeed ship in June. But for a lot of people, especially those in the heartland, it might be chilly outside before you actually take one home.

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