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Taking stock of Apple’s iPhone 5 launch strategy

Stories about the iPhone 5 are everywhere – so much for the days of secrecy at Apple. We already know that the phone will be longer and thinner, with an extended battery life.

It is the notion that the phones will be in short supply that attracts my attention, though. This is because the whole idea screams "marketing ploy!"

Who would know that the screens are in short supply? Apple? Some guy writing a column? A rumour monger? And where do these stories appear? Do they appear in EE Times? This would be a good source of insider and industry information.

(opens in new tab)Newsday published an article entitled: "iPhone 5 screen production falls behind schedule as release date nears (opens in new tab)." Reuters wrote up a similar story (opens in new tab). This is major media designed to impact the mass market.

So Apple is trying to establish the fact that the new iPhone is going to be hard to get. You better get in line now. Yes, line up people! Wrap yourselves around the Apple Stores to help Apple get all the publicity it can days in advance of the actual release.

The idea here is to create a soup kitchen mentality. "We are going to run out of food. Get in line now!" If Apple can get the biggest lines ever, that will be news. The breathless, swooning media will eat it up, never once asking if these people are nuts or not.

I took a walk down the line of people waiting for the original iPhone in 2007 – have a look at the video footage:

Apple hopes to duplicate this phenomenon by creating a shortage. In other words, this is a script everyone is playing into.

The reason for creating this shortage mentality is obvious. When the iPhone 4S was released, Apple had too many of them. Yes, there was a line (not like the 2007 line, by any means), but most people simply waltzed into their local Apple Store and had no trouble grabbing a phone on launch day.

That will not happen this time, if Apple has any say in it.

Will you be able to wander into the store after the people in line are fed their iPhones? Maybe not. Apple doesn't want to get a sneaky reputation. If I headed the company, I would make sure everyone in line got a phone. I'd have someone in the store monitor the line and when the last member of the original line entered the store, I'd announce that the phones were sold out. Then, I'd tell the latecomers that we hope to get some more phones tomorrow.

The news media will be all over the story. The people who waited in line will be deemed "lucky shoppers." Some will be interviewed and will say: "Wow, I'm glad I waited in line!"

Apple gets all the publicity it can handle. A day later, the phone floods into the market.

Another coup for Apple.