It’s official: Apple has begun shipping its much-touted iPad: customers who placed pre-orders for the device have begun receiving notifications that their devices have shipped. As with other Apple products, the iPads are being shipped directly to customers from distribution centers in China; if past product roll-outs are any indication, Apple will be coordinating with FedEx and UPS in the United States to ensure customers get their iPads on the first official day of availability—April 3—rather than a day or two ahead of time.
Apple has also changed a bit of wording on its iPad order screens to indicate customers who place a pre-order now won’t be receiving an iPad by launch date; folks who have just decided they cannot wait for an iPad will either have to wait until their orders ship around April 12, or go get in line to buy an iPad at retail along with the other hoi polloi. Apple says Wi-Fi editions of its iPad will be available at all 221 of its retail locations on April 3; however, Apple has let slip that the iPad will be available at most (though not all) Best Buy retail stores, along with Apple authorized resellers and on-campus bookstores.
Some outlets have been interpreting the delay on processing new pre-orders as an indication the iPad has “sold out;” we wouldn’t read that into a roughly one-week delay in processing new pre-orders. Instead it seems more likely Apple is trying to make sure its retail channels are filled—and that seems to include a major new retail presence through Best Buy.