Expect shortages of new iPad, say analysts

Supply will be tight for five or six months as production of new HD screen creates bottleneck

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The pre-purchases Gottheil mentioned were disclosed by Apple in January 2011, when Oppenheimer said that Apple had signed agreements with three of its suppliers that obligated it to spend about $3.9 billion "in inventory component prepayments and capital expenditures over a two-year period."

Apple will certainly go into the iPad 3 sales swing with a large inventory -- Gottheil said that the company had about 4 million iPhone 4S smartphones on hand last year when it kicked off sales, and figures that the iPad 3 number will be somewhat smaller -- but it's inevitable that supplies will be short.

"It's an equation to them," Gottheil said. "They have to balance how long they delay the availability [of the new iPad] to build up a sufficient stockpile [for the first round of sales] with having more on hand but waiting longer to launch it."

According to reports by bloggers and reporters, Apple will call the new tablet the "iPad HD" rather than the iPad 3 in a nod to the screen's higher resolution.

Most analysts believe that the new iPad -- whatever it's called -- will sport a screen resolution of 2,048-by-1,536 pixels, or four times the number of pixels as 1024-by-768 resolution of the iPad and iPad 2.

Also today, 9to5Mac.com said that a source who works in an Apple retail store told it that the new iPad would go on sale March 16, or one week from Friday.

That would fit exactly with the timeline of last year's iPad 2, which was unveiled Wednesday, March 2, 2011, and went on sale nine days later on Friday, March 11.

Last year, Apple broke with past practice and did not take online pre-orders for the iPad 2, instead, telling customers that they could purchase the new tablet March 11 at its retail stores, and order one from its online store that same day.

Tomorrow's Apple event is slated to start at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET.

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 gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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