Everything is in the Timing: Apple iPad 2 Available at 5pm Friday Before the Evening News & Weekend Shopping

We are almost there, folks! Where is “there?” For those of us planning to buy an iPad 2, “there” is the nearest Apple Store at 5pm tomorrow (Friday, March 11). The iPad 2 will also be available for purchase at 5pm local at the following retailers: AT&T, Best Buy, Target, Verizon Wireless, Walmart and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The iPad 2’s first day purchase availability is very different from previous releases of the iPhone and the first iPad.

iPad 2 Arrives Tomorrow (Apple Press Release)

In the past Apple provided a pre-order period to let people get a device on its first day of availability if (a) they do not live near a physical Apple Store or (b) if they want to avoid the long first day purchase lines. However, the only way to get an iPad 2 on its first day is to go in person to an Apple Store or one of the thousands of other retail outlets that will also have it available. Online orders will start to be taken at 1pm Pacific Time (4pm Eastern). But, online purchasers will have to wait for their iPad to ship and be delivered.

There’s one other change in Apple’s iPad 2 first days sales process. The iPhone and iPad first day sales started at the beginning of store hours (or even slightly earlier at a special openning time). The iPad 2’s first hour of sale comes near the end of the working day (5pm) just before the start of the weekend. There are a couple of theories regarding these first day sales changes.

1. Apple wants to create the impression of an artificially high demand by forcing people who want an iPad on the first day to go to a physical retail location.

2. Apple assumes that there will NOT be any huge lines at their Apple Stores because people will disperse to the closest partner retailer to avoid long lines.

I suspect the official response is theory #2 and the truth lies somewhere in between #1 and #2. And, doesn’t it seem interesting that a 5pm start time is perfectly positioned to let TV news crews to get some footage and sound bites for the evening news? This would let the few people who do not know about the iPad2 become informed for free via TV news and then head to the malls on the weekend.