Not clear whether it’s high demand or a production hiccup that’s causing it

What’s going on with the new Apple TV, the latest iteration of Steve Jobs’ “hobby,” promised for delivery before the end of September?

First Apple AAPL started refunding customers who had paid for expedited shipping, alerting them by e-mail that “Due to a delay, we may have not been able to meet our delivery commitment” and triggering speculation about possible production problems.

Then Steve Jobs — or someone spoofing his e-mail address — weighed in. To a customer’s remark that the device would have to ship in a couple of days to make the September deadline, he responded with a cryptic “Yep.”

Then the shipping notices began appearing, along with the first hands-on review — at Fox News, of all places.

But it’s not clear how many Apple TVs the company will be able to get out the door under the Sept. 30 wire. Anybody trying to order one today faces a 2-3 week shipping delay.

One thing we do know now is how the company was able to get the new Apple TV down to that magic $99 price point: it doesn’t provide the HDMI adapter you’ll need to hook the thing up to your high-definition TV, and which the company ships for free with its Mac mini. You’ll have pay an extra $19 at the Apple Store if you want to use the Apple TV to actually watch television.

CORRECTION: I’m told by readers who own HDTVs that I am wrong about needing to purchase an adapter. You do need to buy an HDMI cable, but these can be had for considerably less than $19.

See also:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]