Apple Sells Out iPad Pre-Order Inventory As Launch Nears

Apple's endured two months of skepticism ever since its new all-in-one iPad tablet was announced on Jan. 27, and there's been no shortage of wisecracks about feminine hygiene products and other saltier barbs over the tablet's much-lampooned name.

But it appears iPads are sold out in pre-order, meaning that unless Apple underestimated iPad demand for launch -- and there's no way to know for sure whether it had too few made unless Apple releases the numbers -- Apple has another potential blockbuster on its hands.

Apple began taking pre-orders for iPad on March 12. But as Apple Insider and other news outlets reported over the weekend, all new iPad orders won't be available immediately, suggesting that Apple had sold out that inventory it had prepped for the iPad's April 3 launch.

Apple itself confirmed on its company Web site Saturday that new iPad orders would indeed wait until as late as April 12 to be filled. Apple customers that had pre-ordered the iPad, meanwhile, have the option of delivery or an in-store pickup at an Apple retail store.

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If there were doubts about Apple's iPad viability, they certainly haven't been reflected in trading markets, where Apple's stock has risen about 10 percent since late January. Apple is clearly banking that the familiarity many consumers have for iPhone and iPod devices -- the iPad uses a similar touch-screen interface -- will lead its iPad sales to early strong returns.

How strong? A number of analysts queried by The New York Times Monday put projections at one million iPads sold by the end of June, and five times that by the end of the calendar year. Much as Apple has notched a huge triumph with its App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch, apps may be crucial to determining the outcome.

Ubiquitous Apple analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray told the Timesthat apps will be the hinge for determining the iPad's use case, especially since "a lot of people are still on the fence whether this is a legitimate market or not."

Less than a week to go, Apple. Is the iPad another big one?