Apple has sold out of initial supplies of the new iPad in every country where it will launch the tablet on Friday, and is now telling buyers that orders will not ship for up to three weeks.
In the U.S. and Canada, all iPad pre-orders placed through Apple's online store will now ship on March 19, three days after the on-sale date. Customers who placed an order very early in the pre-sale process were told they will receive the tablet on Friday, March 16.
Some consumers, including Computerworld staffers who ordered the new iPad last Wednesday, have received emails confirming that their tablets have been shipped.
Australian orders will ship on March 22, while those ordered in other first-wave markets -- France, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K. -- currently show a shipping delay of two to three weeks.
Hong Kong's online store simply says that the new iPad is currently unavailable.
U.S. carriers AT&T and Verizon, both which will also sell the iPad, are only taking customers' email addresses for later notification when the tablet is available.
The tight supplies and resulting delays were not surprising.
Last year, the Apple iPad 2 sold out on its first day of availability in the U.S., where shipping delays changed several times on opening day, first from two to three business days, then five to seven days, and finally settled on two to three weeks.
Four days later those delays had grown to four to five weeks , a timespan that one analyst called "intense."
Apple acknowledged it could not keep up with demand for the iPad 2.
In an April 2011 conference call with Wall Street analysts, Tim Cook, at the time its chief operations officer, called demand "staggering" and admitted orders were bogged down in the "mother of all backlogs."
Not until the mid-point of 2011's third quarter did Apple claim iPad 2 supplies had matched demand.
More recently, analysts predicted that Apple would face a repeat of the problem , in large part because suppliers of the new model's higher-resolution screen have had difficulty getting high yields from their lines.
Last week, Richard Shim, a senior analyst with DisplaySearch, said manufacturing the iPad's 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen was a "challenge" for Sharp, Samsung and LG Display.
iPad sales(millions of units)
Source: Apple earnings statements
The shortages have again created opportunities for resellers who claim they will have the tablet next week.
On eBay, for example, prices for a 16GB Wi-Fi third-generation iPad run as high as $1,200, a 140% markup over that model's list price of $499, while 64GB 4G tablets are priced as high as $2,799, or 238% above the $829 list price.
Apple will begin selling the new iPad in its retail stores, as well as other outlets such as Best Buy and Radio Shack, on Friday, March 16.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.