If you’re reading this article, you already know Apple’s pre-order drill for major new releases: Apple announces a new product, says advance online orders will start at 12:01am on a specific day, and then — when most of its customers are either exhausted or groggy — re-opens its online store to a pent-up frenzy of reservations. Virtually every time, Apple’s most dedicated customers deal with delays and web site loading problems. Sometimes, even if their orders were placed in the first hour or two of sales, they may also face uncertainty over adequate supplies for launch day deliveries.
Despite Apple CEO Tim Cook’s suggestion that the Apple Watch rollout could not be going better, his customers have widely deemed it a disaster: some unlucky people who pre-ordered Apple Watches in the first 10 minutes still haven’t received anything a full month later. Meanwhile, a group of “luckier” people — notably including scalpers — have found ways to skip Apple’s pre-order lines, walking into boutiques such as Maxfield in Los Angeles, and buying bunches of the same Watches pre-orderers are still waiting for.
Sure, overwhelming demand for new products can be hard to manage, and business gurus tend to write this off as a “good problem” for any company to have. But at some point, that good problem becomes chronic, frequently dissatisfying customers, which is when it has officially become a “bad problem.” Whether he admits it or not, that’s the situation Tim Cook faces today. The good news is that he’s well-known as a supply chain genius, so if anyone’s capable of fixing the three key problems within Apple’s screwy pre-order system, it’s him. My hope is that discussing these issues — as well as solutions — will inspire the improvements Apple’s customers have been wanting for a long time…