In-store iPad availability beats online

The wait for a new iPad ordered online from Apple stretches one to two weeks, but customers can walk into a company store today and buy a tablet, according to a stock sampling.

Calls made by Computerworld to a random sample of 5 percent of the 248 U.S. Apple retail stores found that none were completely out of stock.

Every store had the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad in black, for example, while the next most available model, with 92 percent of the stores reporting one or more on hand, was the 32GB Wi-Fi + 4G iPad in black for AT&T’s network.

The least available model, with just 15 percent of the stores saying that they had some to sell, was the 32GB Wi-Fi in white.

Computerworld queried stores in San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; Littleton, Colo.; Orlando, Fla.; Chicago, Ill.; Holyoke, Mass.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Greensboro, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Providence, R.I.; Houston, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday.

Each store was asked whether it had any of the 12 models in the 16GB and 32GB configurations: In the U.S., Apple sells black and white versions of a Wi-Fi iPad, and black and white colors of the Wi-Fi + 4G tablets that are compatible with AT&T’s or Verizon’s data networks.

The new iPad, which went on sale on March 16, has been in short supply since its launch at the company’s online store.

Days before its debut, but after Apple began taking pre-orders, the iPad’s shipping delay jumped to two to three weeks. Since then, the delay has dropped to one to two weeks.

But Apple’s stores have iPads on the shelves, even though some outlets offer customers a limited choice.

The white iPads were more likely to be out of stock than the black tablets, according to Computerworld’s sampling: Only 60 percent of the stores had one or more models in white, while 77 percent had a black iPad available.

Two stores—the ones in Orlando and Providence—had all of the 12 configurations on hand, while seven others had three-fourths of the dozen tablet styles available.

The San Francisco store had the fewest number of iPad options, with just three models in stock.

Apple has not released sales figures for the new iPad other than to boast it sold three million units in pre-orders and retail sales during the tablet’s first weekend.

Next month, the company will disclose iPad sales data for the quarter that ends Saturday.

The new iPad, with prices that start at $499 for the Wi-Fi model and $629 for the 4G-capable device, features a higher-resolution screen, a faster graphics processor, and support for faster LTE mobile data networks.

All sampled stores had iPads for sale, while two outlets had every model out of a possible 12.

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.

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