In the days between Apple's iPad announcement and its release, rumors swirled that the Cupertino consumer electronics giant was experiencing manufacturing issues. So when the company announced last month that the iPad's US release would be about a week later than originally promised, it was no surprise. This week, however, Apple delayed the global release of the iPad by a month. But Apple is again making lemonade, claiming that the delay is due to strong demand for the product in its home country.
The message here isn't about a delay. It's that the iPad is a success.
"Faced with surprisingly strong US demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May," an Apple statement reads. "We will announce international pricing and begin taking online pre-orders on Monday, May 10. We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason: the iPad is a runaway success in the US thus far."
But is it? The iPad is still available for purchase in Apple's US-based retail stores, and the company has been unable to claim that it's sold out. Apple says that it sold 500,000 units in the iPad's first week of availability, but using its own announcements, you can see that the sales curve dropped pretty steeply after the first day. Including pre-orders, Apple shipped 350,000 units on day one, but then took 4 days to sell the next 100,000 units. It has sold over 50,000 units since then. The iPad has been available since April 3 in the US.
Also unclear is whether Apple's numbers include pre-orders for the 3G models, which are still not shipping. (Most likely yes.) Apple's media advisory doesn't clear up that question. "Demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad," the statement reads. "We have also taken a large number of pre-orders for iPad 3G models for delivery by the end of April."
While the international release of the iPad will likely trigger another sales jump, one has to wonder what affect the wait will have on these sales. It seems like the longer people have to wait, the more obvious it will be that the iPad is an unnecessary, ancillary, and expensive device that doesn't replace a smartphone, netbook, or computer. But with Apple bent on positioning the iPad as a success, we can expect the mainstream media in the United States to play ball and propagate that story as well.
Certainly, the iPad is selling more briskly than any previous tablet device, though that's a low bar. And with Apple's other iPhone OS-based devices, the iPhone and iPod touch, selling strongly, the company can afford to carry the iPad regardless of its true impact. Remember that, including Mac portables, Apple sold about 32 million mobile devices in the most recently reported quarter. That is the standard against which iPad sales must be measured. (Apple announces Q1 sales next week.)