Apple meets iPad demand five months after launch

Nearly five months after the iPad’s launch, Apple Inc. has finally matched supply with demand.

Apple’s online store now shows iPad orders will be shipped within 24 hours , the first time the tablet has been available for next-day shipping since its early April debut.

Although Apple took pre-orders for most of a month before the April 3 launch, subsequent orders for the iPad were delayed 15 business days, a mark that fell to 7-10 days by mid-May. Earlier this month, shipping delays dropped again, first to 5-7 days, then to 1-3 days.

Last month, Apple’s executives acknowledged that they had underestimated demand for the tablet.

“We went into the iPad thinking that planning of one million from our capacity was a very bold move,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a July earnings call with Wall Street analysts when he was asked whether there were supply issues with specific components.

“What we are doing is we’re increasing capacity as quickly as we can, and you know there are a number of things that we have to increase in order to do that,” Cook told analysts. “But I am fairly confident that we will be able to increase the capacity. It is not a situation where there is something profound that we can’t eventually increase.”

Apple said it sold 3.3 million iPads in the year’s second quarter, one million of them in the first 28 days of availability.

Before that, Apple gave hints of other signs of stress on iPad supply when it pushed back the international launch until the end of May.

Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., has projected that Apple will sell 12 million iPads this year, with sales in the fourth quarter of 4.9 million units, a 51% increase over 2010’s second quarter number.

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