It’s intriguing to me how Apple adjusts its launch process between products. The first iPhone was activated from home, the second was activated in the store. The first iPad was made available for in-store purchase and guaranteed home delivery on the same date – if you recall, they opened online ordering far ahead of launch day to allow for everyone to get their iPad 1s at home on launch day. Third-party retailers were also recently added to the mix after years of exclusion.
This time around, iPad 2 launched in-store and online ordering OPENED at the same time. The lines were larger than for the first, and stores were completely sold out within 24 hours and online ordering showed a 3 week wait. Apple likely sold 400,000 to 500,000 opening weekend as opposed of 300,000 of the first. So why no advance ordering?
Here’s my theory: rather than allow advance ordering, Apple wanted to generate maximum buzz by generating maximum lines. By not allowing advance ordering, Apple ensured that everyone who wanted the device asap would have to go to stores. I think the company was concerned after seeing weak Verizon iPhone lines that the same fall flat could occur for iPad 2. Of course, things proved to be the exact opposite with demand for this device, outstripping that of the first, as people who sat on the sidelines for iPad 1, decided this was the revision worth buying (70% of buyers did not have an IPad 1.).
The lines have become a key marketing element for Apple, and I think the company does everything it can to make the product launches as visible as possible on a city-by-city basis.
With the stores sold out and online ordering delivery dates standing at three weeks, another possibility is that the company was supply constrained on this launch and anticipated the demand. Under this scenario, the company pushed most of the units into stores to satisfy as many line goers as possible, disappointing more of the online orders, who tend to be more chill about when they get their equipment.
Anyway, this is all just speculation. How Apple determines the online vs store equipment allocation and processes remains a secret. In some ways, it’s as intriguing and mystical as everything else Apple does. Steve Jobs is a showman, the products are movies, and every launch is a new way of running the red carpet.
For my part, I ate dinner with Jill, tucked in the kids, and went up to Best Buy on 86th street at 8:55pm, 5 minutes before closing. No lines, and I was lucky enough they had a few left over including my second choice of model, which I picked up.