Apple began shipping its first iPads Monday to customers who pre-ordered the tablet computer ahead of Saturday's official launch of the eagerly awaited device.

The iPads will be available at Apple stores across the US and at electronics retail chain Best Buy. However, according to websites that follow Apple, Best Buy will only have the device in extremely limited quantities, with each store having a total of 15 iPads - including four that are for display only and cannot be sold.

The apparently tight supply was also the reason behind a decision by Apple to announce Monday that customers who placed orders after March 27 will not have their devices shipped before April 12.

Some analysts said the announcement could indicate that Apple's initial supply of iPads had run out. Others said Apple might be deliberately curtailing supply in order to create the impression that the device is in such high demand that it sold out.

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