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iPad 2 Shortages Hit Web & Retail Stores

If you want an iPad 2, prepare to wait awhile. Strong demand online and in retail stores has led to sellouts in most locations and extended online delays for all models.

Online orders originally promised delivery in two to three days. Hours before units even became available for purchase in retail stores, the estimated shipping time surged from two to three weeks, and then to three to four weeks. As of Tuesday morning, the online Apple Store is showing a four- to five-week backlog for online orders.

In retail stores, units are few and far between, with most stores selling out. This includes retail partners like Best Buy, Walmart, Verizon and AT&T. The one exception seems to be Apple’s Austin pop-up store.

Although Apple’s temporary storefront is still drawing in the SXSW crowds, stock is being replenished — at least for the time being — on a daily basis.

After selling out of iPad 2 units Sunday, crowds gathered to wait in line before the store opened at noon Monday. At 4:45 p.m., I stepped into the store after a brief wait (only a limited number of customers are allowed inside at a time) and was able to pick up a 64 GB Wi-Fi-only iPad.

At this time, nearly five hours after opening, the store only had 64 GB units in stock, but both colors and the 3G options for Verizon and AT&T were available.

Friends in Atlanta have reported a far different experience. Best Buy stores are sold out, contrary to what the e-mail blast sent to customers said, and no one seems to know when they will be getting more in stock. The same is true for the four Apple retail store locations.

With the original iPad, the strong demand for the device forced Apple to delay its international rollout. Online availability continued to be tight through the summer. In late July, I ordered an iPad 3G that took three weeks to ship.

If the launch is any indication, Apple might be facing the same situation with the iPad 2. Apple’s channel inventory for the original iPad was below company targets until late in the middle of the first quarter (November 2010 for Apple). Reports indicate that the company has made significant investments in shoring up production of the second-generation product, however, the addition of a white color and a 3G offering for both AT&T and Verizon might mean that it will take some time for the right units to get to the right stores.

If you’re really hankering for an iPad 2 and have a few days to spare — head to Austin — I hear there’s some big music event taking place.

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