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Don't Believe the iPad Hype


Apple has sold out pre-orders of the forthcoming device, but it could all be a marketing tactic.

The headlines say it all: "iPad Sells Out!"

At face value, if Apple (AAPL) sells out its first round of iPad pre-orders it's a bona fide win for Cupertino. Estimates place the number of pre-orders in a nebulous "hundreds of thousands," according to the Wall Street Journal. CNN Money lengthens the range, spanning 300,000 and 1 million units. And those lucky enough to order prior to March 28 should expect to receive the device on the official April 3 launch date. However, anyone who chose to wait until this week to throw their name into the ring will have to wait. New online orders will see their shipments delayed until April 12. Everyone else will have to cross their fingers to find one in a participating Apple Store or Best Buy (BBY).

By not manufacturing enough iPads for the initial launch date, is this a case of Apple shooting itself in the foot? Why wouldn't the company want enough devices available to possibly surpass iPhone's first-week sales? Wouldn't that guarantee the best possible media push for a device with questionable demand?

Not necessarily.

Because the notoriously clandestine Apple keeps its numbers under wraps, for all we know, there were enough Apple fanatics to snatch up an ample supply of iPads. Or Apple purposely limited the initial supply so that "iPad Sells Out!" headlines would be plastered on every front page and tech blog -- revving demand among consumers who love being a part of the Apple club or are curious to check out what the fuss is all about.

And Apple wouldn't be the first to allegedly do so.

Many analysts accused Nintendo of purposely limiting its supply of Wii consoles to boost both consumer frenzy and the volume of your children's pleading shrieks. The company denied the claims and blamed the limited production on a short supply of chips and circuit boards. Still shouldering charges of faking a shortage a year after the US launch, a Nintendo spokesperson told

We are strongly reject and resent the accusation that we are "PR-ing" stock shortages and no press releases are being distributed. We are doing all we can to ensure that the unprecedented demand for Wii can be met as far as possible in the run up to Christmas.

But whether intentional or not, the problem certainly had favorable repercussions for Nintendo -- to the tune of 67 million sales.

Of course it's entirely possible that, like Nintendo, Apple "underestimated" demand. After all, a recent study conducted by market researchers at NPD Group discovered that, out of 2,000 people polled, a mere 18% were interested in purchasing an iPad -- over half of 18- to 34-year-olds said they'd rather buy a laptop. Perhaps Apple took similar surveys to heart, ordered fewer iPads, and were shocked to see it fly off online shelves.

But then again, when has Steve Jobs & Co. ever sold itself short?
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