And that's making some of Apple's most loyal fans -- often the company's fiercest defenders -- not very happy at all.
As 9-to-5 Mac and MacRumors (plus a reader or two in my inbox) have reported, there are several people who ordered Apple Watches early enough to get an initial shipping estimate of "April 24 - May 8" who have yet to receive any notification that their watches are on the way. That seemed particularly perplexing given that others report that Apple is running a bit ahead of schedule. Some customers who initially resigned themselves to shipping dates as late as "June" say they have already received e-mails from Apple indicating that their watches are "preparing for shipment."
In a statement, Apple confirmed that it was moving some shipping dates up and working to meet all orders in their promised time frames.
“We’re happy to be updating many customers today with the news that their Apple Watch will arrive sooner than expected," the company said in a statement. "Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.”
Apple has certainly made it clear that it's looking for a different audience. It even eschewed the campouts and long lines that have become signatures of its product launches. That was in part to play up the luxury appeal of the Watch as not only a piece of technology but also a piece of jewelry. Apple's retail chief, former Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts, made it very clear in the run-up to the launch and in leaked memos to retail staff that she wanted this launch to appeal to a different sort of clientele.
"They are taking a leaf out of the luxury devices playbook," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "If you're going to be getting a Tag Heuer or a Rolex, you can't just roll into a store. You make an appointment. It's not a surprise that this is not showing up in your Best Buys, or the [wireless] carrier stores."
There are some stores where you will be able to pick up an Apple Watch on Friday, but they aren't Apple's. At Friday's launch, the watch will show up in boutiques such as "colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles and The Corner in Berlin," according to Apple.
The question, however, is whether Apple's efforts to broaden its base will alienate their most faithful customers -- those more concerned with gadgetry than pageantry. Those folks, after all, are still the ones most likely to pick up the watch now, no matter what the future may hold.
The new strategy, said Gartner analyst Van Baker, is a gamble -- and one that, in his opinion, hasn't been successful. "I think this is a grand experiment for Apple, and I wouldn’t say it has gone well," he said. "Whether this will have a lasting impact on the sales of the product or on Apple’s reputation with its most loyal customers remains to be seen, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement."