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iPad 2 sells out in USA, March 25th international launch in doubt

Less than a week after its launch in the United States, the iPad 2 is simply gone. If you don't have one already, you're not likely to get one anytime soon unless you have equal measures of patience and perseverance. Apple's retail stores are occasionally (and sporadically) getting new shipments, but the lines outside stores in key markets like New York City and San Francisco are still huge. Shipping time for online iPad 2 orders has increased to 4-5 weeks. The picture is clear: demand for the iPad 2 is vastly outstripping supply.

All of this has led at least one analyst to question whether Apple's scheduled March 25 international launch of the iPad 2 will still take place. After examining the current state of affairs in the U.S., Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities doubts Apple will have enough supply of the iPad 2 for an international launch. Unfortunately for Apple fans outside the States, he's most likely right.

Considering how the supply/demand scenario has played out in the U.S. so far, a couple things could happen with the iPad 2's international launch. Unfortunately, neither of them are likely to satisfy international customers or do much for Apple's image. First, Apple may cite supply issues and simply move the international launch date back. I think this is the most likely scenario, mostly because there's precedent for it: the same thing happened last year with the first iPad.

The other possibility is that Apple will go forward with the international launch on schedule, but with extremely limited stock. While discussing this scenario with fellow overseas TUAW colleague Richard Gaywood, I guessed that on launch day Apple might have perhaps 50,000 iPad 2 units available in the UK, where he lives. As for New Zealand, where I live, I estimated about 500 iPad 2s would make it down here -- and I was being optimistic. Given the state of affairs the last time Apple launched a major product where I live, even if the iPad 2 does make it to NZ on March 25, the launch is likely to be a debacle. Note that in both countries' cases these numbers were pulled out of the ether and formed from no evidence at all, so please don't go pitching a tent outside your local Apple Store based on my guesswork.

There is of course a third possibility: the U.S. iPad 2 supply may be limited because Apple has deliberately held units back to assure a smooth(ish) international launch. Based on Apple's history of preferential treatment for the U.S. market when it comes to product launches, I find this highly unlikely.

I saw this coming, so I planned accordingly: my iPad 2 is currently somewhere over the North Atlantic on its way to me, far on the other side of Earth. Unfortunately, whether the international launch happens on schedule or not, it's unlikely most would-be iPad 2 owners outside of the U.S. will be so lucky.

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