iPad 2 launch: not Apple's finest hour

David Winograd
D. Winograd|03.18.11

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iPad 2 launch: not Apple's finest hour

Jason O'Grady, writing for ZDNet's The Apple Core, penned an incisive piece on the five ways that Apple screwed up the iPad 2 launch. I agree with every point. Usually, Apple has been very good on getting information to the huddled masses waiting for the next new iThingy, but this time the company side-stepped the issue and let everyone fend for themselves, to the liking of no one. Here's what Apple got wrong:

Not allowing pre-orders: Allowing potential customers to pre-order new products helps assure they can get the new stuff in their hands on day one. This time, not so much. There are plenty of reasons pre-orders might have been infeasible, including lack of inventory or a bad component delaying shipments. Still, in a perfect world, Apple should have taken the high road and allowed pre-orders, even if the number of units allocated was slim.

No availability tracker: Apple has been good about providing information on in-store availability of new products. In the past, the company has put up a page (it no longer exists), providing a grid of what stores had particular models. This prevented the stress of going to your store and coming up empty. If you were in a populated area, with a few Apple stores, you were given alternatives. This time, no such information was provided.

Lines, lines and more lines: Without any information, lines were bound to happen with Apple knowing full well that many, if not most people on the line would walk away disgruntled. This could have been prevented by handing out wristbands ahead of time. There was absolutely no reason to have people standing in line for hours, or in some cases, days, with Apple fully knowing that there would be no Joy in Mudville. After not getting an iPad 2, people scurried from store to store, most often coming up empty time and time again -- due in part to the efforts of the next group...

Nasty gray marketers: The New York Post reported that a good deal of the iPad 2 inventory was snapped up by a group of gray marketers who bought all they could and scalped them for outrageous prices, selling some for as much as $2,000 each. A lot of inventory went back to China (where the iPad 2 is not on sale) for potentially ridiculous prices as well. eBay is rife with iPad 2's, with current bids going as high as $6400. [Note: this is for a lot of 12 units.) Apple could easily have done something about this by limiting purchasing to one or two units, instead of the supermarket sweep that seems to have occurred. [Of course, for past product launches Apple has been dinged for limiting purchase quantities, profiling buyers and banning cash sales. –Ed.]

Not keeping promises: Jason reported that he ordered an iPad2 online. He found the ordering page one minute before it was supposed to go up, and he was promised three to five-day shipping. It's now the fifth day, and it still hasn't shipped. I'm sure that his problem will be worse than what happened to me. I ordered a MacBook Pro online on the 12th with a promise of one to three-day shipping. It finally shipped on the fourth day. This is not the biggest of deals, but Apple usually under-promises and over-delivers. in the past, I got used to Apple shipping the next day after being given a three day window. Not this time.

It wouldn't take a brain surgeon to solve all of these problems. All Apple needs to do is to be straight with its customers and give them some useful information, as has so often been the case in the past. The larger problem is that Apple booting this rollout so dramatically, and having it so vociferously covered in the press, is going to shrink an awful lot of good will that Apple has traded so heavily in over the years.

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