Weird Apple iPad numbers: Are they good news or just bad spin?

At first glance, the Apple press release loudly proclaiming that the company sold 3 Million iPads last weekend seemed designed to quiet critics who were noting the unusually small lines for the new iPad Mini last week.

3 million iPads! Take that!

Until, of course, you read it carefully. And then you realize that it’s, well, odd. First, and foremost, because it doesn’t actually break out the numbers for the iPad Mini. That 3 million is all iPads sold.

So how did the iPad Mini do? Says Apple:

“Customers around the world love the new iPad mini and fourth generation iPad,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We set a new launch weekend record and practically sold out of iPad minis. We’re working hard to build more quickly to meet the incredible demand.”

Practically?

Some, like M.G. Siegler, embraced the Apple story line as proof that all is right in Apple-land:

“So much for the short lines — Apple sold three million iPads in three days. To put that in perspective, they sold five million iPhone 5s in three days a few weeks ago — a device that ranges from cheaper tomuch cheaper depending on the subsidy and version of the iPad. Oh, and it’s the iPhone — Apple’s best-selling device.”

Many others, however, weren’t so sure. At ExtremeTech, Sebastian Anthony says:

“You have to wonder why Apple didn’t release specific figures for both the iPad Mini and iPad 4. Presumably, one of the tablets had a weaker launch than expected — or, if Apple really massaged the figures to include the sales of other new and refurbed iPads, then maybe both new models put in a lackluster performance.”

Investors were clearly impressed, driving Apple’s stock up $7.82 or 1.36% to $584.62. But it’s worth nothing the stock is way, way, way off it’s late-September high of more than $700 per share. Analysts appeared to be extremely bullish on the news, believing the numbers were very positive and that demand would only increase as Apple released the cellular version of the mini and iPad 4 in the coming weeks.

So what’s not to like? It should be noted that once again, like with the iPhone 5, Apple has pointed to its ability to make enough gadgets to meet demand as a reason sales might not have been as high as they might have been.

Issues with the supply chain seem to me to be the big weakness at Apple that very few people are discussing. It’s surprising to me, considering this was Cook’s role before he stepped into the CEO job. While people have been excited about the increased number of new gadgets Apple is launching, and the speed, this seems to have overburdened the company’s supply chain and manufacturing capacity.

One of the few analysts focusing on this issue is Walter Piecyk at BTIG, who today writes:

“To be clear, 3 million is an impressive number by itself but we believe it’s important for Apple to be able to expand its ability to ramp supply in order to capitalize on demand and maintain strong earnings growth.  In a compressed product cycle demand falls off more quickly in between product cycles and at some point in the not too distant future, a potential iPad mini customer will start turning their attention to speculation of a Retina display iPad mini and inevitable price cuts on existing models. “

And:

“Finally, we cannot ignore the reality that the iPad mini took 3 days to sell out of its pre-orders while the iPad 3 sold more units in just 17 hours.  This is surprising given the attractive price points of the iPad mini and the fact that is was launched in 3x the number of markets.  It’s hard to ignore this as a data point on the popularity of Apple’s new product launches but clearly it can be overcome as we approach the holiday selling season.”

The question now: Is Apple in fact trying to do too much, too fast? And in the process, will that limit the sales of some newer products, no matter how fantastic they are?