Apple always do this to boost the size of the queues of people waiting outside their shops for the new products.
Actually, it was a sales gimmick (up to them requiring iPhone buyers to stand in line outside the store to buy their iPhones, all of which are in stock and ready to go, just so people can see "Hey, look, a line!").
However, now it's a requirement. There's the requirement, now, that there needs to be a line. No line means failure, as we all know (just look at all the articles about various non-iPhones going on sale and how there isn't a big line for them).
As such, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple isn't also pushing the shortage information to the various reporters, so they can push it to their readers, so that various Apple lovers with nothing better to do will go "OMG! I might not be able to get an iPad 3 for another month if I don't get one on day 1? I better stand in line then! The alternative is just too unthinkable!"
I mean, if you knew there were more than enough iPads in stock to handle the initial demand, most sane people would just order online and have it shipped to you (you know, the way most normal/sane people would buy an iPhone, rather than stand around outside the store only to go inside and have to stand around while filling out stupid forms and getting credit checks and stuff, all the things you can do from the comfort of your own home).
It also helps them forecast popularity and hence the size of manufacturing runs. It always happens, it isn't new, it's old hat.
It helps none at all on forecasting popularity. There's a segment of the apple community who will stand in line for any iPhone or iPad that is released. So you would need to know how many of the people in line are in that group vs. the average "Wow, it's so cool and great, I need one today!" consumer. The early lines will tell you nothing. Esp. since it is apparently an 'event' now, the line standing. So there will always be an early line, regardless if Apple was releasing an iZune.
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