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Apple MacBook orders to remain steady in spite of chassis, HDD stutters

Shipments of Apple's MacBook will reportedly remain stable in the fourth quarter despite recent hiccups with chassis and hard drive supplies for the portables.

Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes countered on Tuesday recent rumors that Apple was reducing its shipment forecast for MacBook units, claiming instead that the Mac maker has not lowered shipments for the quarter, according to sources at the company's upstream suppliers.

Last month, unibody chassis maker Catcher Technology revealed that the Chinese government had temporarily closed one of its plants, which produces 60 percent of Apple's unibody MacBook enclosures, because of an issue with "strange odors" emanating from the plant. The supplier later announced that it would resume production by the end of October.

However, DigiTimes' sources claimed on Tuesday that, contrary to what Catcher had said last month, the factory was not yet operational and was awaiting a government evaluation after having completed installation of equipment to eliminate the odors. AppleInsider has contacted Catcher for comment about the discrepancy but has yet to hear back from them.

For its part, Apple indicated during a quarterly earnings conference call last month that it was "investigating and assessing the situation."

The closing of several hard drive factories due to recent flooding in Thailand has also prompted speculation that a projected international shortage of hard-disk drives may hurt Apple's MacBook shipments. Apple CEO Tim Cook said last month that he was "concerned" about it, but he remained unsure how an industry shortage would affect his company. He did note, however that the company's "primary exposure" was on the Mac.

Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup late last month, adding faster CPUs and graphics processors to the machines. AppleInsider was first to report in September that Apple would release a minor update in order to tide the product line over until Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processors are ready in 2012.

MacBook Pro

Apple's MacBook Pro lineup was quietly given a speed boost in late October.

According to one analyst, Apple is on pace to continue record Mac sales and could sell as many as 5.3 million during the holiday quarter. Those estimates would suggest year-over-year growth of between 23 percent and 28 percent.

Apple last quarter saw significant growth in Western Europe while most other vendors saw shipments fall. The company posted a near 20 percent increase in Mac sales year over year that was substantially better than the region's overall sales decline of 11.4 percent during the period.