What Does 'Sold Out' Mean for the iPad Mini?

Within hours of going on sale, Apple pushed back delivery times an extra week for its white iPad Mini, bestowing it with two sweet words for any debut gadget: "Sold out."

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Within hours of going on sale, Apple pushed back delivery times an extra week for its white iPad Mini, bestowing it with two sweet words for any debut gadget: "Sold out." It's great PR for Apple, which gets to look so popular that its gadgets just flew off the digital shelves. "Preorders for iPad Mini Indicate Strong Interest" was the headline of the Fox Business post about the phenomenon. But, that actually might not be the case. Many people could be clamoring for the more-expensive-than-its-competitors gadget, as the words "sell out" indicate. Or maybe, more accurately, Apple ran out—not because of high demand, but because of something on the supply side, either in or out of its control.

We don't get any hard figures here. Apple could have sold out of a very minuscule stock. Or, it could have promised away its already very extensive load.

Scenario 1: Sold out!

It is possible Apple made as many tablets as it thought would sell, presumably a lot because the company thinks it has a hit on its hand. And even that number wasn't big enough for the hordes of people (women?) in need of a smaller Apple-branded tablet. It's easy to bend the number for this case. It goes like this: This iPad Mini sold out before all the other new iPads Apple has announced. It also went quicker than last March's iPad with Retina display, which took days, not hours, to go. That went on to break weekend sales records, at an undisclosed figure. Ergo: iPad Mini is the most popular ever, probably on track to sell millions and millions and millions.

Scenario 2: Ran Out

It's possible something out of Apple's control limited the amount of iPads made. Yet, the tablet still attracted a lot of buyers. This is what happened with the iPhone 5, supposedly. The 5-incher broke a sales record when it went up for sale on the Internet, taking just an hour before having its ship date moved. Apple then announced a record breaking 5 million phone sales in the first day. Like the iPad Mini, all signs pointed to gadget domination. Yet, that number ended up disappointing analysts who blamed it on supply issues, which Foxconn admitted to The Wall Street Journal. In this scenario, Apple still has the adoration of its fans, but doesn't get to make as much money. Its stock suffers. So do its earnings. The company also looks like an evil dystopian overlord, as the delay from Foxconn was attributed to the phone's hard-to-meet design demands.

Scenario 3: "Sold out"

Apple doesn't disclose how many iPads it makes available for these initial online orders. Maybe it only had two white iPad Minis and now they're gone. Why would Apple do that? PR. It's possible the company limited supply because selling out so fast always results in many blog posts about its success. The company's tablet sales last quarter failed to meet analyst expectations, per its earnings report yesterday. In order to get people more excited about its tablets, Apple may have held back the supply in this pre-order phase. If it's sold out it must be cool, right? Or for the less pessimistic out there, maybe Apple didn't want to be over confident with the Mini, so it hedged this initial release.

As you can see, this morning's events can mean a lot of things for Apple's bottom line and the belovedness of the midget iPad. We won't know the actual success until the company gives us some numbers. And, as we saw with the iPhone 5's record breaking sales, those can be deceiving at first, too. So maybe it's best to wait until the next earnings report, which if it is anything like the one following last year's holiday season, it should prove the iPad Mini sold well.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.