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iPad pre-order stock is already depleted, says Apple

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(Read caption) The new iPad is already in scare supply, according to Apple.

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The new iPad: After months of speculation and fast-flying gossip, it is here. 

But good luck getting your hands on one anytime soon. In a statement today, Apple cautioned that pre-order stock of the new iPad, which hits shelves on Friday morning, is already depleted. "Customer response to the new iPad has been off the charts and the quantity available for pre-order has been purchased," Apple reps told USA Today. "Customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date."

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Which is not to say that it is impossible to purchase an iPad on launch day. Without a pre-order – and providing you've got sharp elbows – you can still march to the local Apple store, and line up with the local scrum of Apple fanatics, and hope the store has enough iPad stock to go around. But you better start lining up soon: According to Slashgear, over in London, a few die-hards have already set up camp

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If you prefer to do your waiting indoors, in front of the television set, you can still pre-order the new iPad. Shipping is free, although Apple says the device may not begin to ship until March 19 – Monday of next week, in other words. At the very earliest. 

The new iPad, which ships with a Retina display, a 5-megapixel camera, and the super-snappy A5X chip, is expected to be a big hit for Apple. Today, a pair of Canaccord Genuity analysts estimated that Apple would unload 65 million iPad computers in 2012, and a whopping 90 million in 2013. 

"With our checks indicating record pre-orders and 2-3 week wait times for new iPads, we anticipate a record iPad launch this weekend," Michael Walkley and Matthew Ramsay of Canaccord told Reuters. 

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