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iPad: Are 3G supply chain issues at fault for international release delay?

Andrew J Nusca wonders out loud over Apple’s claim that a successful launch for iPad in the US is behind the delay to international shipments. Noting that anecdotally, there isn’t a shortage in US stores, he adds:

“The first issue is that it’s unclear that there truly is overwhelming demand for the iPad — enough that it exceeded Apple’s internal estimates and, by extension, tapped out its supply chain.I strongly doubt Apple gave itself too aggressive targets. What this appears to me is that it is having supply chain issues and can’t meet existing demand — which may very well be below internal targets for the device.”

First, it’s worth noting that Apple’s definition of “delivered” means “delivered into the channel”, not “bought by customers”. So it’s entirely possible that it has iPads sitting on shelves in the US – those are “delivered” product.

But secondly, I think Andrew is correct about this being supply-chain problems – and my gut feeling is that it’s connected to the availability of the 3G model, which still hasn’t been released in the US.

Apple has always planned to release the 3G and WiFi-only models at the same time outside the US – late April. This, not by coincidence, was also the date for the release of the 3G model in the US.

What, though, if supplies of the 3G model were more constrained than Apple had predicted? In order to hit that late-April date in the US, Apple would either have to split the launches of iPad outside the US, shipping WiFi first then 3G, or delay the entire international launch.

The second option makes more sense than the first. Splitting the releases outside the US reduces the opportunity to maximise the effectiveness of the marketing expenditure on a per-country basis.

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