Definitely weird for an Apple device rollout. I think Peter gets it right as to why:
We’re working hard to get as many as we can” tells you everything you need to know. As was predicted in the run-up to the new device’s release, availability for the new iPad mini seems quite constrained.
So constrained, in fact, that Apple is limiting its availability to its online store and through “Personal Pickup,” its system that enables you to buy products through the Apple Store app or through the web site and arrange to pick it up at your local Apple retail store. Some product has also been diverted to the major US wireless carriers as well, so your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile stores may get a small inventory.
Obviously Apple will do whatever it takes to ramp up production as quick as it can, but if the iPhone 5s is any indication, the iPad mini with Retina Display may be a hot commodity for the weeks to come. So my best advice is to get your order in as soon as you can, especially if you’re hoping to see one in time for Christmas.
I think they were desperate to catch the holiday shopping period in time, especially with American and, to a lesser extent, Canadian Black Friday coming up. While I don’t know if it’s the right approach, I guess they wanted to get it in some people’s hands rather than none at all. As Apple doesn’t break down iPad sales, given the better timing of the iPad Air’s release, they’ll do pretty well overall in this category this year.