As potential iPad 2 buyers are ringing around Apple dealers, only to be told that there's no stock, some NZ reporters have been talking about the 'farcical' NZ iPad 2 launch - putting it on a par with the decidedly strange iPhone 4 launch last year.

I don't think they were on the same level, but there were certainly some odd touches to this year's iPad 2 launch in GodZone.

Yoobee Newmarket staff members were telling people during last week that 'something special was happening' on Friday.

Wow, what could that be? Perhaps the iPad 2 launch as announced by Steve Jobs on 3rd March? "iPad 2 will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK on 25 March." Big secret there, folks.

Then there was an idea that the Japanese disaster would impact on iPad launches, putting back the international on-sale dates. But this was refuted days before our launch date: "Apple keeps all iPad 2 international shipping dates at March 25th - it appears Apple is going to be holding to the March 25th date for international iPad 2 launches as the launch date for the device in the Czech Republic has reverted back from April 25th to the original shipping date of March 25th. As noted by Macgasm, the company looks to be adhering to its promise that the iPad 2 would ship to selected international countries this Friday, despite reports of component shortages as a result of the tragic events in Japan." This was noted on my own site earlier last week.

So who were they kidding? Or were staff members just misinformed?

There is a kind of lolly scramble that accompanies launches like this. Stores were allocated certain numbers of iPads depending on Apple's criteria - however mysterious or logical that might be - then presumably weren't allowed to say, although people were queuing outside Yoobee (aka MagnumMac) stores. Fair call - that was probably the most predictable place to get a new iPad.

Last year, odd things happened with the iPad 1 launch. People queued outside MagnumMac while Dick Smith and other big stores had stacks by the door and extra staff on, with virtually no takers as they "weren't allowed to say" they had iPads in stock! No one knew. How crazy is that?

Even stranger things happened with the iPhone 4 launch. It was on sale, it wasn't on sale. Mutterings from unnamed sources mentioned Vodafone and Apple falling out over something, but neither was saying and I still don't know what actually happened.

Even Apple's ad hoc NZ presence at the time, Whybin TBWA (Apple's ad agency) was completely flummoxed by that one. I know this, because I walked into Whybin and asked what was going on.

In all three cases, supply fluctuated wildly after the launches. I guess that's an indicator of just how successful Apple is with its devices, but it's exceedingly frustrating having the money to burn and not being able to burn it on Apple's altar of indulgence when you've decided the upgrade is imperative. But even the vendors here appear to have no idea when they will next get stock, and in what numbers.

(And no, I haven't bought, or ordered, an iPad 2.)

For once, it was similar in the US, which got the new 'pad two weeks ago. After the initial sales rush, people were told 'out of stock, and one week for delivery', then two weeks, then four to five, and now it's back down to three or four as Apple starts to sort out supply.

Your best bet here, unless you actually like waiting to hear when iPads might be in a shop near you, is to order it at your favourite or most convenient supplier. Then be patient, or order it direct from the Apple Store and, again, be patient.

Because the thing sold like hot cakes. Yoobee Newmarket apparently sold 280 in three hours. That was its full allocation.

The entire United Kingdom sold out of iPad 2s in under 24 hours, said the Daily Mail.

A long line had formed outside Apple's flagship store in London's Covent Garden. There was even a blog dedicated to the iPad 2 queues in the UK.

In Holland, about 200 people queued in The Hague and iPad 2 sold out at all Apple resellers in that city before 5pm local time. (Apple has no Apple Stores in the Netherlands, as in New Zealand.) Equally impressive iPad 2 lines formed in Stockholm, Sweden and Hamburg, Germany and in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and elsewhere.

Now, there are continuous iPad 2 shortages around the world. Even if you hate Apple and all it represents, you have to admit it has the market by the bal - er neck if it can't make enough of something for people to buy. I mean, hell, it's hardly penicillin. There are very few people who 'need' an iPad, despite protestations to the contrary.

Analysts estimate that Apple may have sold anywhere between 500,000 to 1,000,000 iPad 2s already, in under a month, with whatever the real number may be constrained by supply, not by demand.

I've had a quick look at one. They are definitely sleeker to the touch and snappier to use.

Reuters calculated the price of the device across Europe in comparison to the United States. iPad 2 starts at US$499 in the United States for the 16 GB model - with taxes in the US, the device has an average total price of US$547 (about NZ$729).

In Europe, iPad 2 starts at 479 euros which converts to about US$678/NZ$903.