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Apple launches late AirPods into immediate ship slip

Apple launches late AirPods into immediate ship slip

Postponed wireless headphones go on sale, but supplies evaporate; ship date now at mid-January

Apple today began selling the delayed AirPods, but the wireless headphones almost immediately skated to a 2017 ship date.

The Cupertino, Calif. company warned customers that the product would be available in "limited quantities at launch."

Indeed.

The $159 headphones -- which resemble enlarged ear buds sans wires -- debuted on Apple's online store earlier Tuesday. Within minutes, the estimated ship date shifted from Dec. 21 to mid-January 2017.

Apple introduced the AirPods in September, alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. At the time, executives said that the headphones would be available in October. Late in October, however, Apple confirmed that the AirPods were delayed, saying, "We need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers."

Apple's Tuesday press release did not offer a reason for the two-month delay, but added that the headphones will be available in Apple's retail stores next week.

Today's launch came just four days after a report by the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that the AirPods would miss the holiday selling season.

Product delays and extreme shortages are not uncommon for Apple, which has muffed several holiday opportunities over the years. The most recent: The Mac Pro, the company's top-of-the-line desktop, which was announced in June 2013. Within hours of putting the Mac Pro up for sale in December 2013, Apple pushed the ship date into February 2014. Months after that, the Mac Pro was still backordered four to six weeks.

Although some experts and pundits have expressed concern over what they saw as Apple mismanaging its supply chain -- CEO Tim Cook's area of expertise -- others downplayed the impact of such delays.

"I think it's a minor blow to the brand, but not a big one, long term," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview last week. "[But] if there are continued hiccups then this, of course, changes."

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