Cost. They did not have the money to pay for a larger first batch from their manufacturer. They were working from pre-order money and donations.
People seem to be forgetting they didn't have the money to do anymore then they did, and it was one of the reasons they changed distribution models. Farrell and RS have more capital and can get more product into the pipeline. The launch is messed up because of the change, but the RPis will have better availability in the long run.
They didn't take pre-orders, just donations.
I'm with you there. I have a couple of product ideas where I might use these -- initially it would be cheaper to pay for these boards and embed them, than to design and manufacture my own board. Makes you wonder about the markup on some of the other products that are available in the same category, doesn't it.
I gotta assume the Pi's aren't tested as rigorously as actual embedded stuff and desktop caliber boards are a low volume boutique item. I mean, embedded stuff is more like a headless server then a desktop. Ethernet is the most important port, and everything else can be stripped away.
I want to get some of these for various servers, maybe a cluster.
I hear you. You're frustrated. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and guess the folks responsible for the Rasberry Pi project realized, perhaps at the last minute, that they were in over their heads. They were likely in no way ready to handle the logistics of distribute the first 10k boards to international customers, in spite of all the run-up.
They're engineers who are doing this in their spare time. They're adept at designing stuff and hitting a price point, but they're not used to dealing with logistics.
I haven't listened to the interview they gave. Based on what I've read, they maybe could have handled the PR for this decision, this change in distribution plans, a little better.
I probably would have announced the distribution model, and then delayed the launch for a couple of weeks to make sure everything was sorted out. Of course, their SO's might have made the decision for them.
"You said you would be done with this on this date..."
Nothing could have saved the websites though. RS or Farnell wasn't going to invest the money to beef up their web serving infrastructure to handle a one time event. Amazon has the infrastructure to hand this sort of thing, but I'm not sure how they could make that work.