Apple's announced the sale of its one millionth iPad since the launch of the device on April 3, and according to some estimates 300,000 iPad 3G units slipped off shelves this past weekend. These are big numbers, with big implications for the entire tablet/slate PC paradigm.
But first, some crowing from Apple today: "One million iPads in 28 days—that’s less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a press release. Plus, iPad users have downloaded over 12 million apps from the App Store and over 1.5 million e-books from the new iBookstore.
New owners did discover some drawbacks to the 3G iPad. Certain videos, like everything from ABC, only works in the Wi-Fi mode. The iPad 3G's speed was tested, and it's about equal to the iPhone's, meaning just okay. And iLounge has torn the thing apart, and found that battery life is less by about 90 minutes, compared to the Wi-Fi version (which is totally negligible, considering we're talking about double digit battery life).
Still, analyst Gene Munster is predicting that 300,000 3G iPads were sold this weekend. This is the same chap who over-enthusiastically suggested Apple sold 600,000 to 700,000 iPad Wi-Fi versions on the first weekend, when Apple's official figure was 300,000...so perhaps we should take this new figure with a boulder of salt. On the other hand, perhaps not: based on data collected from a number of stores and in-person attendances at Apple Store iPad 3G launch events, Munster's initial prediction of 1.3 million iPad sales in the June quarter may now be a pretty conservative figure. Given that Apple's officially acknowledged the millionth sale happened on Friday, the actual total is likely to be much bigger come June.
In fact, Munster's data showed sell-outs of iPad 3Gs in some places, and even higher than expected sales of the Wi-Fi-only version. He also notes that there was a slight problem inside Apple achieving enough supply to match the demand, echoing the circumstances of Apple's move to delay the international launch until May. Over the first "several quarters" Munster's analysis suggests 60% of people will buy Wi-Fi-only versions and 40% the more expensive 3G-equipped tablets.
This is an analyst speaking though, with an agenda aimed at the financial markets...so why should we take his data seriously? Because it's very plausible that Apple shifted as many iPad 3Gs over the weekend as it did for the Wi-Fi-only version back in April. That's because the iPad has had increased media exposure and word of mouth promotion (always a strong aid to Apple sales) which will have attracted consumers who may have been unsure at first about this paradigm-shifting product. There will also have been a significant number of people holding out buying the device until the full-featured version came out, with its benefits of always-on mobile broadband, GPS and the attractive "on tap" contract from AT&T. Some wary users will also have been waiting for the first tranche iPad production run to be sold, revealing any weaknesses, and allowing Apple to improve the manufacturing process.
And the figures are extremely important when talking about the entire slate/tablet PC genre. Since the Microsoft-touted HP slate has been cancelled, and Microsoft itself has pulled the plug on the Courier tablet, (which many had touted as the most serious competitor to Apple's effort) the iPad is now in a position to actually dominate this new market. Big names like Dell are still promising to deliver novel tablets. And Asustek's boss has even downplayed the tablet as a fast-selling device, saying that netbooks will likely outsell tablets in the long run—but the company is still planning on selling an Eee tablet.
The problem is that these other devices won't come to market for several months, and they will fail to make as much of a media splash as Apple's device did. By the time the tablet PC market gets up to speed, Apple will have all but assumed control, as it did in the MP3 player game. And with $499 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPads already going for $600 on Ebay to international customers, it's clear that this gizmo is going to be big. By which I mean huge.