iPhone is out of stock across Apple. There’s also limited availability in the UK where only the 16GB model is intermittently available from O2 – and this isn’t an inventory problem, but deliberate execution.

I’m not saying I know this for sure, but it makes sense that with a new model iPhone on the way, Apple is clearing its supply chain to make way for the device. But its a deeper strategy. I suspect (personal opinion, speculation, alert) Apple management have deliberately decided to make the device more or less unavailable in the weeks preceeding the release of the new model.

This makes sense for two reasons: 

First, Apple is stimulating demand for the new device when it ships by making it hard to get hold of the current edition. That move should help ensure “stellar sales” of iPhone v.2 3G within the first few weeks.

Second, Apple’s September 5 2007 decision to slash $200 off the cost of the first generation device saw the company hit with a storm of criticism as angry customers complained they felt ripped-off. These complaints reached such intensity Apple CEO Steve Jobs approved a $100 rebate to iPhone customers to keep the peace.

In an open letter on the matter, he said: “There is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cut-off date and misses the new price or the new operating system or the new whatever. This is life in the technology lane. If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you’ll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon.”

Well, we don’t know about the expense (though AT&T reportedly plans to offer the next-gen iPhone at a $200 subsidised discount); but we do know the keenly-anticipated ‘phone’s going to be “something better”.

Apple doesn’t want to upset hundreds of customers when it launches the new device, nor does it want to swap out/replace thousands of iPhones purchased in the week or two before the launch.

As such, I think the current lack of availability is deliberately designed to minimize complaints and maximize demand.

Initial reports of iPhone going out of stock emerged early this month. This suggests Apple’s preparing a launch window for June. Given the WWDC keynote’s admitted focus on development for OS X and iPhone,  smart speculation now favours the idea that Apple will introduce the 3G iPhone in late June, along with the iPhone Software 2.0 release in late June. That’s assuming it doesn’t announce the new model in early June, for shipment later that month. 


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