On Friday, Apple officially apologized to its customers for the confusion surrounding the reconfiguration of its Power Mac G4 line, and the announced cancellation of advance orders for the powerful new machines.

Despite news reports and messages from Apple's online store suggesting otherwise, an Apple spokesman told our sister publication, MacWEEK, that the company will – out of necessity – cancel almost all advance orders for G4 systems.

"We are honouring advance orders from just a small number of individuals," the spokesman said. He added: "We are apologizing for the inconvenience this has caused our valuable customers. Fortunately, most of our customers understand the need to do this to meet demand, and almost all the customers we have heard from are re-ordering."

Apple said earlier this week that delays in chip production forced it to reconfigure its new Power Mac G4 line, using slightly slower processors. Prices for the systems remain unchanged, however, leaving customers who had pre-ordered the machines uncertain which configuration they would receive, and how much they would be charged.

Some customers received an email message from the Apple Store on Friday morning, informing them that an earlier decision to cancel all advance orders had been rescinded. In the afternoon, however, Apple said the Apple Store message was wrong, and that production demands required the cancellation of almost all orders for now-unavailable configurations. Similarly, Apple said news reports Friday from the Associated Press and other outlets stating that Apple had rescinded the G4 price hike were incorrect.

Customers who ordered G4 systems before Wednesday's cancellations – and the retailers who can't deliver the computers they already sold – are caught in the middle of the confusion. Customers can contact the Apple Store to confirm their orders, but retailers don't yet have a clear course of action from Apple.

Read Fenner, from United States catalogue retailer, ClubMac, said: "We don't have any old systems, and the new ones haven't come in." Fenner added ClubMac had "several hundred" advance orders for G4 systems, but, now has "no way" to fulfil them. Instead, he said, the company will have to contact customers and offer them the chance to re-order "either a slower computer at the same price, or the same computer at a higher price".

"Apple put us in an awkward position [that will create] a lot of ill will with our customers," Fenner said, noting that all Mac resellers face the same dilemma. Apple's decision to honour some of the Apple Store's advance orders compounds the problem, he said. Although he can understand Apple's reasons, Fenner added: "It makes it tougher when they're taking care of Apple Store orders while cancelling ours."

The general consensus is that the situation for resellers is extremely awkward. But, most observers seem to agree that Apple is simply trying to deal with an unexpectedly complex supply situation, that the company claims is not of its making. In the meantime, IBM's decision to begin manufacturing G4 chips has been welcomed by many, as it should lead to an ultimate solution to this problem by mid-2000.