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Another iPhone Release Kerfuffle; Palm Learns Too Well

The past two times Apple has released a new iPhone, there were lines and frustration as the activation process fell apart. Hopefully it won't happen again, but there are already signs that things are not smooth at operations, though whether the problem of Apple or AT&T, it's tough to say.

The US carrier's internal sales system is asking staff to tell customers that any pre-orders made on Saturday the 13th or later won't ship on launch and instead will reach retail locations between 7 and 14 days after the order is made, overshooting the release date.
People who waited to pre-order can still go into a store starting at 8am to buy a unit. Those who pre-orders and will see delayed shipment get an email when the phone is in stock.

So, let's see. Both companies know they have what has been the hottest smartphone on the market. They could guess that many people would want to upgrade, particularly with the promise of a faster chip (though, presumably, no improvement of the connection speed that many have found a disappointment). What do they do? Not have enough units heading to the stores so they could be sure to satisfy all the customers who might take them up on the offer to order ahead. That also suggests there won't be enough units for people coming in the doors, period. Guess we can expect more long lines and more disappointed customers.

Maybe everyone will hold out for an iPhone. But the Pre has been getting some good press, and it's a rule of thumb in consumer electronics that you want to get units out quickly early on when you can still count on higher prices, hence bigger margins. And then, the sooner you sell someone the phone, the sooner you get to start charging them those lush monthly fees.

Of course, the Pre is only an option if someone who wants it can get it, and that seems to be a question. According to J.P. Morgan analyst Paul Coster, about 100,000 units have already shipped. Palm is purportedly replenishing stock showly and Sprint is only selling to customers on the waiting list. I understand wanting to keep supply chains under control, but that's like saying that you are going to run a restaurant and control costs by not having enough food on hand to make for the customers waiting at the door. Whether the argument is margin or just that old-fashioned concept of the time value of getting paid today instead of next month, why are so many tech companies so poor at predicting demand and then ramping up to satisfy it?

Empty shelf image via stock.xchng user gmarcelo, site standard license.

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