Toshiba says it is passing on the opportunity to introduce a new tablet running Microsoft Windows RT on the launch date of Oct. 26 because of delays in the shipment of components from suppliers.
In an email, Toshiba said the component delays "would make a timely launch impossible." The company does plan to launch a Windows 8 Pro tablet, which is expected to come out about 90 days after the Windows RT launch. Toshiba said it will revisit the issue of an RT-based tablet launch "in the future while monitoring market conditions." A Toshiba spokesman has not replied to email requests for more detailed information.
Such delays tied to the launch of a new product are not unusual in the tech industry, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, a research firm. They often occur when the introduction of a new operating system (OS) or a new processor platform from Intel or AMD prompts device makers to launch new products.
Windows RT is the variation of Windows 8 for tablets that run ARM processors, while Windows 8 Pro is the version of the OS for devices running x86 processors.
The specifications for a Windows RT tablet are very particular and this early into the launch of a new OS, components are manufactured in limited production runs, Enderle explained. The fact is that OEMs like Toshiba don't really know how well the tablets will sell until they are actually available for sale. In addition, he said sales have been weak for tablets running Google's Android OS, so there may be good reasons for caution.
Four OEMs-Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung-have announced plans to introduce Windows RT devices, while Microsoft is also introducing its own tablet, called Surface, by Oct. 26. That's also the date that the new Microsoft OS will go on sale.
With all those companies scrambling to get components at the same time-and likely paying a premium for them-Toshiba got dealt out, as if it was playing musical chairs with its competitors and was left without a seat when the music stopped.
"Toshiba wasn't excited about paying premiums to get components and was willing to sit back and let some of the early launch partners take whatever arrows they're going to take for the first generation of these products," said Enderle.
Component shortages may also have played a role in the halting rollout of the Google Nexus 7 tablet, he added.
Some news reports around July 12, the scheduled launch date of Nexus 7, note that some retail chains were told to withhold inventory of the product and that some online retailers were told to stop sales of the Nexus 7. Google has not replied to a request for comment. The Web page at Google.com where shoppers can buy the Nexus 7 promises shipment "in 3-5 business days," so it looks as if the supply chain problems for this model have been resolved.
Apple has also encountered delays in shipping new products. In 2010, it was unable to deliver the new white iPhone 4, although it had plenty of them in black. In that case, it was not so much a component shortage as production problems. Enderle said Apple had problems with the casts used to make iPhone 4 cases.
In addition, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, told All Things Digital in April 2011 that because the cases were white, they needed a coating of ultraviolet (UV) protection from the sun's rays that the black phones didn't need.
Those production issues aside, Enderle said Apple has been savvy about managing its supply chain by pre-ordering some new components more than a year ahead of a new product launch to make sure they are on hand.