You may have $500 burning a hole in your pocket, but that doesn't mean you're getting an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad 2.
Head out to Apple's website, and you'll find the tech giant's shiny new tablet on the landing page. That's as close as you're going to get. Clicking on the "Buy Now" button is a bit deceptive. You can certainly purchase a black or white iPad 2 "now," but neither model will ship for another four to five weeks.
Head on out to your local Apple Store, wireless carrier, or consumer electronics superstore and odds are that the shelves have been plucked dry. The bricks-and-mortar locations will be restocked along the way -- consumers shouldn't expect the Apple Store in the suburban shopping mall to be dry for four to five weeks -- but frustrated buyers have no guarantees that they'll nab Apple's latest "magical" gadget. The New York Post ran a story yesterday on Asian scalpers who are cleaning out stores and shipping them to sell at higher markups in China.
This will naturally lead one to see eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) as an iPad 2 beneficiary. The same site that helped iPad owners unload their tablets before upgrading this month is now there to sell premium-priced iPad 2s.
The long-term winners, though, will likely be rival tablet makers.
The lack of availability gives other companies the shot they thought squandered. Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI ) Xoom had some pre-release buzz as the first tablet built on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) tablet-friendly Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but buyers recoiled when they heard about the $799 price tag. There's now a $599 Wi-Fi model hitting stores, thankfully during the lull of iPad 2 availability.
Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) was on borrowed time with its hyped-up PlayBook failing to break out into the wild. It now has a few more weeks to hit the market.
This may also be the second chance for the once-hot tablets that land forgot. Remember Samsung's Galaxy Tab? The Android-fueled tablet that Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile is now offering at half of its $499 price for those committing to two-year data contracts? Paying T-Mobile $250 seems like a more lucrative value proposition than paying four times as much for one of the thousands of iPad 2s on eBay.
Hurry up, Apple. Your lead is safe and seemingly insurmountable, but the last thing you need is for envious rivals to regain their long-forgotten swagger.
Who stands to benefit the most from the iPad 2 shortage? Can it be Apple itself? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.