Apr 27, 2015 · 2 minutes

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Apple is how it's managed to produce so many devices, so quickly, year after year after year. Designing an iPhone is laudable; shipping millions of iPhones is awe worthy.

Yet it seems that the company may not keep that racket going much longer. Slice Intelligence reports that of the 1.7 million people who pre-ordered an Apple Watch, only about 376,000 of them received one in the mail last weekend.

That might seem impressive. Apple is entering a new category with the Apple Watch, and it's not unusual for there to be delays when a new product debuts.

But those numbers make me wonder: Could the Apple Watch's launch gone more smoothly had its release followed the same pattern as Apple's other products?

Unlike new iPhones, there aren't many ways to buy an Apple Watch. The company won't even sell them in its stores until June, and unless you want to visit a fashion retailer, the only way to buy everyone's favorite wrist computer is to purchase one online.

Apple even said that it's experienced a "significant change of mindset" with the Apple Watch's launch. As its retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, said in a memo:

The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers. The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase Apple Watch and the new MacBook. Customers will know exactly when and where their product arrives.

This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order. You'll make their day. Part of this could be motivated by Apple's desire to position the Apple Watch -- especially the models that cost more than $10,000 -- as genuine luxury items.

But the new thinking might be motivated more by the fact that Apple isn't producing the Apple Watch (nor, apparently, the new MacBook) as quickly as it's able to produce new versions of its iPhones, iPads, and other products.

Slice Intelligence says many consumers will receive their watches in May, a smaller proportion in June, and some 639,000 of them at an unknown date.

And that's after Apple improved the delivery times for some people who were originally told their watches would ship in June. Imagine if the company hadn't made that shift, or if it had encouraged people to line up for the watch's debut.

Apple will probably be able to produce more Apple Watches in the coming months. Consumers will get their devices quickly, the product will be available in Apple's retail stores, and the initial shortages will probably be forgotten.

Still, it's hard to think of a time in recent memory when Apple wasn't able to meet demand with a new product. Maybe the company's finally met its match.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]