Apple chief Steve Jobs made a fleeting return to the spotlight last night to unveil the much-hyped successor to the vendor's iPad, which has sold 15m units so far.
Jobs, who has been on indefinite medical leave from the company since January, took to the stage in San Francisco yesterday to showcase the second generation of the firm's tablet computer, the iPad 2.
Jobs said the device will leave its competitors bobbing in Apple's wake. "While others have been scrambling to copy the first-generation iPad, we're launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again," he said.
Compared with its predecessor, the new product is 33 per cent thinner, 15 per cent lighter, and is said to offer improved performance – thanks to the inclusion of a new dual-core A5 processor.
It also features front- and rear-facing cameras, and is expected to cost the same as the first-generation iPad when it goes on sale in the UK on 25 March.
However, ChannelWeb spoke to several Apple Premium Resellers (APRs) this morning that were unable to confirm when they will be stocking the device.
One partner, who asked not to be named, said: "Apple's codes of confidentiality mean that we won't know anything before anyone else about pricing and availability. All we know is that it is being released in the UK on 25 March."
Further to this, Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope is reported to have written to investors earlier this month warning that low product supplies could hamper the launch of the iPad 2.
In particular, he said the ultra-thin glass encasing the product's touchscreen technology could present "yield issues", but added that these are likely to be rectified swiftly.
"This appears to be more a process problem as opposed to a technology problem, and we would not be surprised to see volumes ramp fairly quickly as the process improves," he said.
Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at market watcher Quocirca, said that if product shortages do occur, this could cause further delays for the firm's channel partners.
He said: "It is very easy for vendors to be caught out by the level of demand, especially when they attempt go from standing still to high production volumes, as Apple has with the iPad 2."
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