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The iPad 2 (s aapl) is coming to 11 more countries this week, according to Apple. New countries getting the second-generation Apple tablet include Japan on Thursday, April 28 and Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and eight other countries on Friday, April 29. The iPad 2 is also coming to China beginning Friday, May 6. Expanded availability may be an indication that Apple’s iPad 2 supplies are nearing existing demand for the product.
Apple had promised to release the iPad 2 in Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore in April when it announced the availability of the device in 25 more countries two weeks after its initial U.S. launch. At the time, Apple said “other countries” would also get the iPad 2 in April, though it didn’t specify how many or which countries specifically. iPad 2 availability in China, where Apple saw its largest growth last quarter, had not been announced even generally before today. The other countries that will get the iPad 2 on Friday include Hong Kong, India, Israel, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and UAE.
That Apple is ready to launch in these countries suggests that it may finally be catching up with demand for the product. During the company’s conference call last week, Tim Cook admitted Apple was facing the “mother of all backlogs” regarding the device, which is not a statement you’d generally expect to precede a wide increase in availability. But ship times for the device have improved to between one and two weeks, both in the U.S. and most international stores, and according to Apple’s 10-Q filing with the U.S. SEC, the company will spend $11 billion in purchase commitments (including, but not limited to iPad components) during the upcoming quarter. It’s a steep increase over the $7.9 billion it spend in that capacity during the previous quarter. That investment could go a long way toward resolving the production bottlenecks that are apparently preventing Apple from meeting iPad 2 demand thus far.
Another possibility is that demand is finally slackening in countries where the iPad has already launched. But there are still lines at some Apple locations, including in front of NYC’s Apple Stores every morning, according to reports. Demand may be less than what it was at launch, but it still seems far from being satisfied, and it’s much more likely improvements in Apple’s supply chain are more responsible for improved shipping times and availability than lack of consumer interest.
If Apple can manage to resolve issues that led to its massive backlog during the launch quarter, expect to see iPad 2 sales balloon during the next three-month period. Some analysts have revised their expected sales figures downward based on last quarter’s performance, but if Apple’s supply concerns aren’t a factor, you can expect it to beat those predictions in the coming year.