Apple Online Stores Out of iPhones

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Apple has quietly confirmed that both its UK and U.S. online stores are out of stock of the iPhone, although individual Apple retail stores and retail locations run by its carrier partners AT&T and O2 may still have units in stock. Although Apple employees and official spokespersons refused to give any reason for the shortage or to even speculate on when handsets might be back in stock, the shortage is widely being views as a sign Apple is clearing out existing inventory in advance of launching a 3G version of the iPhone in the coming weeks.

Many are expecting Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) June 9 to mark the official unveiling of a new iPhone. Some industry watchers expect Apple to launch the device on or near June 29, 2008, which would mark the one-year anniversary of the original iPhone’s launch in the United States.

Apple has been working hard to meet its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of the year, and industry sales figures seem to have it a little more than halfway to reaching that goal, with 5.4 to 5.5 million iPhones already in consumers’ hands. If the speculated launch date for a 3G iPhone bears out, Apple would be taking a big chance leaving its iPhone channels dry for over six weeks in anticipation of introducing a new device: lack of availability could create consumer backlash, and Apple may not be able to win back iPhone early adopters (again) with a price break, store credit, or the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade.

This year’s WWDC conference will be the first to feature a track explicitly aimed at iPhone development, including hands-on labs and sessions delving into the iPhone SDK and pending App Store.