Apple began selling its smaller tablet across the world today. And in less than a half hour, what had been a November 2 delivery date became a mere promise to ship in two weeks for some models.
Four minutes into the day, Apple started accepting online orders for the iPad Mini, and its initial promises to deliver the smaller, lighter, and less expensive tablet on November 2 quickly turned into a promise to ship it in two weeks for some models.
Apple's online stores lit up at 12:04 a.m. PT in the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan to those people eager to get the tablet as soon as possible but not wait in line when the first models arrive in stores on November 2.
But the balance of supply and demand meant that many buyers will have to show up in person if they want an iPad Mini as soon as possible. By 12:27 a.m. in the United States, the Apple store's words "delivers 11/2" became "available to ship: 2 weeks" for the 64GB white model. By 12:55 a.m., all the white models showed 2-week shipment dates, though the black iPad Minis kept their November 2 delivery date.
Shipment dates also slipped in Europe. At 12:47 a.m. PT in Germany, all models in all colors slipped to a two-week shipment date. In France and the U.K., all white models showed a two-week shipment schedule. Three hours later, the situation was unchanged there and in the United States.
Meanwhile, Apple's fourth-generation full-size iPad, which introduces a faster processor than the third-generation product that arrived earlier this year, didn't seem to suffer from supply shortages. Apple stores showed all models available for delivery on November 2.
The iPad Mini is arriving in two waves, with Wi-Fi-only models first and 4G-equipped models a couple weeks later. Apple listed initial ship dates of November 2 for the Wi-Fi model across the different countries, but said the Wi-Fi + 4G models would arrive in mid-November in the United States and the end of November in Europe. In Japan, the Wi-Fi + 4G models couldn't be ordered yet.
Carriers also sell iPads, but a survey of a half dozen showed none promoting or selling the iPad Mini yet. Presumably that will change closer to November 16, when the 4G models arrive in stores.
Tablets have become a huge business for Apple, with 14 million iPads sold last quarter, though not as big as its iPhone business, with 26.9 million.
Preorders can be a big problem as customers mob online stores in an effort to get the first models without having to wait in line at Apple stores. In September, iPhone 5 preorders brought down Apple's online store and those of several carriers selling the product.
Those who don't get into the online shopping queue early don't get their devices soon. iPhone 5 delivery times quickly reached 3 to 4 weeks as 2 million flooded in during the initial spurt of sales activity last month.
The most notable iPad Mini differences compared to earlier iPads is the smaller size, of course, a lower 0.68-pound weight, and also a lower price starting at $329. That should help the iPad lineup keep the pressure on the PC market when it comes to attracting customers' disposable income this holiday season.
The Wi-Fi models of the iPad Mini will arrive in stores on November 2 at $329 for 16GB, $429 for 32GB, and $529 for 64GB. On November 16, the models that support both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE wireless networks will arrive at $459 for 16GB, $559 for 32GB, and $659 for 64GB.
The iPad Mini's 1,024x768-pixel screen has a 7.9-inch diagonal compared to 9.7 inches for the regular iPad. It's also got an Apple A5 processor -- a relatively elderly model compared to the A6 in the iPhone 5 and the A6X in the fourth-generation iPad.
The new tablet also has a front-facing 720p-capable FaceTime camera and a 5-megapixel back camera; 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi at 5.2GHz; Bluetooth 4.0; and Apple's smaller new Lightning connector.
Updated 12:55 a.m. PT with details the first orders slipping from November 2 delivery to 2-week delivery times. Updated 3:45 a.m. PT to note the fourth-generation iPad isn't facing supply constraints.