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Friday, October 20, 2006, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Briefly: holiday Apple hardware tracking for early Nov.

Fresh hardware shipments from Apple Computer should commence within the next week and a half, according to statements from both company executives and those responsible for keeping ties with its reseller community.

During Apple's recent quarterly conference call, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer maintained that the company's new iPod shuffle will ship "by the end of October."

He was later asked by Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf if he had any preliminary indication of demand for the new $79 clip-on player because rumors have suggested demand "could be huge."

"We've been taking orders, obviously, [...] from our online store and from our channels and we're very excited to get shipments underway in a couple of weeks to really test it," Oppenheimer said.

Meanwhile, several of Apple's retail partners waiting on new shipments of the company's MacBook notebook lines were recently told that shipments of "speed bumped" models are currently tracking for the first week of Nov. In particular, Nov. 1 has been mentioned as a potential ship date on more than one occasion.

The Mac maker's primary European hardware distributor ran dry of both MacBook and MacBook Pro inventory several weeks ago. Its US-based distributors now appear to be following a similar trend.

While some had predicted Apple to begin introducing Core 2 Duo notebooks as early as September, AppleInsider reported last month that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company was likely to take some time before it introduced MacBook and MacBook Pro models with the new Intel chips.

It's not that Apple has been dragging its feet, say insiders, but has instead been waiting on Intel for ample supplies of the higher-end Core 2 Duo processors to facilitative its Core 2 Duo MacBook launch.

A quick check of Amazon.com's Core 2 Duo notebook availability indicates that Apple is not the only PC maker in this boat. The majority of Core 2 Duo notebook systems immediately available from the retailer include 1.6GHz, 1.66GHz or 1.83GHz chips, as opposed to the 2.0GHz, 2.16GHz or 2.33GHz variants.

Similarly, Dell's direct sales channels are quoting customers delivery dates between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3 for higher-end Core 2 Duo notebook systems. HP's lead times are slight further out at Nov. 5.

At a developer forum hosted by Intel in Taipei this week, the chip maker said it has shipped 5 million Core 2 Duo processors since it first introduced the chips 60 days ago. What it didn't say was how many of those Core 2 Duo processors were of the Merom mobile variant as opposed to the Conroe desktop variant.

Apple, which does not rank amongst the top five PC manufacturers worldwide, is still expected to sell over 1 million notebook systems this holiday quarter. But it will need Intel's help to do so.