By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 3, 2008

A month after it went of sale, demand for the MacBook Air is surprisingly strong, according to Ars Technica, which surveyed stores across the U.S. over the weekend and found supplies of the $1,799 notebook computer ($3,098 for the solid-state drive version) thin or nonexistent.

“No Air for you,” is the motto in and around Boston, writes Ars‘ Ken Fisher. “An employee at the Burlington store told me that demand has been extremely high, admitting that some customers even ponied up for the far more expensive MacBook Air SSD because they stayed in stock longer.” (link)

Despite its limitations (shortage of ports, nonremovable battery, etc.) the machine was also out of stock in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, according to Ars readers. In Indianapolis there are “more than enough” Airs to meet demand, writes Fisher, but in London’s Regent Street store they are “selling out the moment they come in.”

Of course, empty shelves can be caused either by high demand or short supplies, and without any sales figures from Apple (AAPL) it’s hard to tell which it is. One sign in favor of strong demand, however, is that the Apple store’s “Top Sellers” list puts the MacBook Air at No. 1, ahead of the MacBook, iMac, Leopard, MacBook Pro and AppleCare. That’s especially impressive given that the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines got refreshed just last week.

According to Fisher, the machine sells itself once people put their hands it.

A recurring theme in our discussions with the folks at the Apple Store (who just love to gab, it must be a job requirement) is that the MacBook Air is a switcher device. The perception that this puppy is the leanest, meanest portable there is has road warriors starry-eyed. When we feigned amazement at the product being out of stock in multiple locations, we were told time and time again that demand for the Air is increasing as people see it in action, in person. Of course, these are paid Apple employees telling us this, and they have a sales job to do. At the same time, we’ve heard plenty of similar anecdotes in the past week. (link)

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