Want an iPad 2 on March 11? Be in Line Early

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Around 6 a.m. on April 3, 2010, prospective iPad buyers began lining up at the Apple Store in Durham, N.C., with similar lines forming at other Apple Stores across the U.S. as early as the day before. Nearly a year and around 20 million iPads later, it appears history is about to repeat itself with the iPad 2 launch.

Today, DigiTimes is reporting Apple has ordered some 40 million iPads for 2011, including 10 to 12 million for the second quarter, and 6 to 6.5 million this quarter. Of those shipping in the first quarter, the iPad 2 will account for some 2 to 3 million units. Setting aside the questionable accuracy of DigiTimes, the cause it cites for supply problems — display yields — was echoed by Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope.

Shope, citing his own sources (via AppleInsider) in a research note, asserted that the “iPad 2’s ultra-thin glass screen is generating yield issues,” though he also said it was more of a “process problem,” and improving upon the process could see “volumes ramp fairly quickly.” It should be noted Shope accurately, if vaguely, predicted details of the iPad 2.

If those reports seem an insubstantial basis for predicting shortages of the iPad 2 at launch, consider the details of the launch itself. Like the original iPad launch, the iPad 2 will be sold only in the U.S. While the international launch is scheduled for more than two dozen countries on March 25, there are, as of yet, no details on how to buy an iPad 2 at international Apple Stores. Instead, eager visitors find just a “Notify Me” button for joining an e-mail list.

While the U.S. store does list buying details, the big difference from last year is that there is no pre-order option. Though Apple never announced specific pre-order-only numbers, 300,000 iPads, including pre-orders, were sold on launch day. It’s certain that total will be exceeded this year, since the iPad now has a proven track record and a stellar reputation, meaning the pressure on local Apple Stores and retail partners like Best Buy, Walmart, and Sam’s Club will be intense. Further, the iPad 2 will not go on sale until 5 p.m. EST, which means the line will be growing over the course of the entire day, with a big push towards the end as people leave work early to get in line.

While Apple Stores will have the longest lines, they will also have the most stock. Expect Apple’s retail partners to get shorted on units, and there’s no word on whether AT&T and Verizon stores will have any new iPads at all. Especially if you want the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, which is the most popular model, be at an Apple Store as early as possible.

Now is the time to decide whether instant iPad 2 gratification on March 11 is worth the wait in line. If so, plan on making a day of it. It’s what the 10-hour battery of your current iPad is made for.

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