Frustration for iPad 2 fans as demand outstrips supply

Widespread shortages of the iPad 2 come amid news that Apple has overtaken Microsoft for the first time in 20 years.

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Apple may be gaining on its rivals, but the creator of the iPad 2 disappointed many of its UAE fans yesterday.

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Most stores sold out of the popular touchscreen tablets and those that had units available charged customers a sizeable premium.

Many retailers, including Jumbo Electronics and Plug-Ins, sold out of the iPad 2 on Friday, the day the device officially debuted in the region. Some iStyle and Sharaf DG outlets also ran out of certain models over the weekend.

"The demand is there, so the units sell off very fast," said Kamalesh Dash, the head of marketing and strategy at Sharaf DG.

News of widespread shortages in the Emirates comes just days after Microsoft released its latest earnings. It fell behind Apple, which posted higher quarterly profits than its competitor for the first time in 20 years. Research In Motion (RIM), which makes the BlackBerry and released its PlayBook tablet in the US last month, is also slipping further behind Apple.

Last week, RIM issued a profit warning for its first-quarter earnings due in large part to shipment delays with new smartphones.

But while Apple seems to have the competitive edge, some consumers say they are growing increasingly frustrated with the long queues and short supplies they face each time the company comes out with a new gadget.

Philippe Mechain, who works in Abu Dhabi, said he recently bought the new iPad while visiting the US. Yet he was able to get only one after he queued before the store opened on two separate days.

Daniel Chen of Abu Dhabi stopped short of making a purchase yesterday because of confusion over the best price.

Some retailers offered the device for as little as Dh2,149 (US$585), which is still $86 more than its US starting price. Another made the computer available only in special bundles with other accessories - for hundreds of dirhams more, and as much as Dh4,295 for some packages. One executive for an online site said its tablets would continue to cost at least 25 per cent more than Apple's official price until stocks were replenished in the region this week.

"I think I'm going to wait," said Mr Chen, before he walked out of Abu Dhabi Mall.

Some retailers in the Emirates expect to have additional supplies of the iPad 2 as early as today, although others are warning customers to check back later in the week. Only a handful of the more than 35 Jumbo Electronics stores in the region are to sell the iPad 2, based on a joint decision the company says it made with Apple to keep stock in stores with [all the necessary] signage, fixtures and specialist technicians.

Mr Dash of Sharaf DG says its largest shops are receiving the most stock, and that company representatives replenish stock from nearby locations whenever they sell out.