Delays for Apple's iPad jumped yesterday as the company told U.S. customers that new orders would ship in two to three weeks.
As recently as Saturday, Apple said that new U.S. orders would ship on March 19.
The U.S. delay now matches that of other markets where Apple plans to launch the new iPad this Friday, March 16. Orders placed with Apple's Australian, French, Japanese, German, Swiss, Singapore and U.K. online stores all show the same two-to-three-week delay.
The Hong Kong online store still says that the new iPad is currently unavailable.
By Apple's estimate, a new iPad ordered today won't ship until the March 26-April 2 timeframe, with delivery coming several days after that.
While the delays have not yet reached the level of last year's iPad 2 -- that tablet pushed shipping times to as long as five weeks within days of its debut -- they hint that Apple is facing a repeat of 2011's supply problems.
Experts believe that that's a near certainty, and have pinned blame on the higher-resolution screen used by the new iPad, which features a display of 2,048-by-1,536 pixels, or four times the number of pixels of the tablet's first two generations.
"Apple's trying to use a new display technology from Sharp for that higher-resolution without compromising on battery life," said Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager of small- and medium-sized displays with research firm IHS iSuppli, in a recent interview. "But Sharp is having trouble getting good yields."
Other display suppliers that Apple is reportedly using -- Samsung and LG Display -- are also having difficulty qualifying their 2,048-by-1,536 screens for quality, said Jakhanwal. According to her sources, LG Display will probably not ship its higher-resolution screen for the iPad until the second quarter.
"The display is being a challenge," said Jakhanwal, who pointed to that component as the one that will most constrain supply.
Like other analysts, Jakhanwal said that Apple faces several months of tight supplies.
Rhoda Alexander, another iSuppli analyst, estimated last week that new iPads will be difficult to find for the next five to six months.
Apple will kick off in-store sales of the new iPad on Friday, and last week said it would launch the tablet in 25 additional counties, including Austria, Italy, Mexico and New Zealand, on March 25.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.