Already struck with iPod fever, Apple ( AAPL) may now be suffering from some Mac mini mania. Not that the company necessarily minds. Only two of Apple's 98 U.S. retail stores had the new cut-price Macintosh computer in stock in recent days, according to Gene Munster, a financial analyst with Piper Jaffray. Combined, those two stores had just three Mac minis in stock, Munster said. Meanwhile, the average waiting list for a Mac mini at Apple's stores has 18 people on it. Additionally, all of the stores were sold out of Apple's new budget-priced iPod Shuffle digital music player. The average waiting list for the Shuffle was 120 people long, Munster said. "The majority of stores have no idea when they will receive product," Munster said in a report issued on Monday. "We believe initial demand for the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle has exceeded what Apple had been expecting." (Piper Jaffray has done noninvestment banking services for Apple in the last year.) Apple's retail stores expect to have "ample supply" of both devices by the end of this month, Munster added. An Apple representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Apple has garnered the lion's share of the digital music-player market with its iPod series. It has been trying to build on that success both in digital music and in its traditional computer market. Despite having what many regard to be superior technology to that found on computers using Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows operating system, Apple's Macintosh has seen its market share steadily slip away. Analysts have attributed the decline at least in part to the higher prices that Apple charges for its computer line. With the Mac mini, the company has attempted to remove that obstacle. The minis have a starting price of about $500, making them competitive with budget-priced PCs.
The early indications have been that the Mac mini is a hit. In addition to Piper Jaffray's survey, Apple's online store and other online vendors have been showing a
backlog in orders since before the Mac mini became available last month. Apple's online store, for instance, currently gives customers an estimated ship date of three to four weeks after they order. Apple's Web store is showing a similar backlog for its two iPod Shuffle models. With a price starting at $99, the iPod Shuffle represents Apple's attempt to boost its share of the lower end of the digital music-player market. Despite the low price, some analysts had questioned how popular the device would be due to its design compromises. The Shuffle doesn't include any kind of screen, making it difficult to select songs directly with the device. The dearth of supply for the Mac mini and iPod Shuffle is only the latest time Apple has had trouble meeting demand for its products. Last fall, the company had a backlog of orders for its iPods and some of its computers based on the PowerPC G5 chip. Last year, the company struggled to meet demand for its iPod mini immediately after it released the device. In recent trading, Apple's stock was up 67 cents, or about 0.9%, to $77.57.