iPad 2 International Launch: Lines, Ship Times Point to Low Stock

Apple employees using the iPad 2 in Kansas. Photo by Dave Greenbaum.

The iPad 2 is in the midst of its international launch (depending on where you fall on the international dateline) and, by all accounts, the device is selling well. Reports of lines at international Apple Stores abound, and online orders seem all to be showing two- to three-week shipping windows.

Apple mirrored the U.S. launch in pretty much every regard with its first batch of international launches: online order availability beginning at 1 a.m. local time, and in-store retail sales (at Apple locations and at retail partners like Best Buy) beginning at 5 p.m. There were no pre-orders, and there was no way to reserve an iPad 2 for in-store pick-up in advance, as has been the case with some previous product launches.

Many, myself included, assumed the iPad 2’s early sell-out success in the U.S., combined with possible supply chain problems stemming from the disaster in Japan, might lead to a delay of Apple’s international launches, but Apple itself allayed those fears earlier in the week, and launches have proceeded as planned in time zones where it’s already past 5 p.m.

But the price of sticking to the planned international launch timeline may be quick stock-outs, if existing information is any indication. While the iPad 2’s shipping time in the U.S. via the online store recently improved from four to five weeks, to three to four, it looks as though international customers hoping to purchase online were greeted almost immediately (if not immediately) with an estimated two- to three-week wait. That makes lining up the surest way to find an iPad anytime in the immediate future, and as lines like the one at the Toronto Eaton Centre here in Canada already numbered in the hundreds eight hours ahead of when the iPad 2 actually goes on sale, it’s fair to assume that a decent number of customers will be left wanting.

I applaud Apple for sharing the iPad 2 wealth with international markets, instead of just redirecting supply to satisfy the U.S. demand and fulfill online orders placed in that country, but be aware that the trade-off is that if you want an iPad 2 today, getting out early to the nearest retail location is probably your best bet.

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