Apple's iPad 2 is in extremely short supply, with shipping delays from Apple's online store now standing at four to five weeks and customers at several prominent retail stores today going away empty-handed.
But those shortages aren't due to the unfolding disasters in Japan, and likely will be solved in the next month or two, analysts said today.
"Just because Apple's showing four to five weeks does not necessarily mean that's the next time you can buy one," said Brian Marshall of Gleacher & Co. "I expect that Apple will stagger shipments to its retail stores, with the next large one coming Monday, March 21."
As of noon ET Tuesday, Apple's online store showed "4-5 weeks" as a shipping window for all iPad 2 orders. That delay is almost double last week's, when the e-store indicator changed several times on March 11, first from two to three business days, then five to seven days, and finally settled on two to three weeks.
Apple started selling the iPad 2 last Friday, first through its Web store and then at 5 p.m. local time at its retail outlets.
Marshall admitted that a four-to-five week delay is unusual for Apple. "Five weeks is pretty intense," he said.
In the past, Apple has dealt with low supplies and high demand for new products, particularly the iPhone 3GS in 2009 and then last year with the iPhone 4. With the latter, Apple posted delays of up to three weeks on early iPhone 4 orders, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs apologized for the short supply of the new smartphone.
But the best comparison would be the iPhone 3G, said Stephen Baker, an analyst with retail research firm NPD Group, because, like the iPad 2, that smartphone was the second-generation model following the debut device that many saw as sporting serious flaws.
In 2008, iPhone 3G shipping delays extended for more than a month at Apple's U.S. carrier partner AT&T, although Apple had sufficient supplies to meet demand within three weeks.
Marshall said that the iPad 2 shipping delay and the limited supply of the new tablets at Apple's retail stores was due to "tremendous demand," and not indicative of a production problem.
Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, concurred.
"The current shortage is not at all related to Japan," she said, referring to the earthquake and tsunami of last week, as well as the partial meltdown of several nuclear reactors at a plant on the northeastern Japanese coast. "It's the usual case of a new product and new excitement. Apple is just ramping up now and [the demand is due to the fact] that there's a huge portion of consumers who will not buy a first-generation product no matter what."