iPad Success Ushers in Tablet Era

I've been trying to restrain myself from writing too much about the iPad. Before its launch I had made the assumption that once people were able to hold one and see it, it would be a success. I think we can now pronounce the device a preliminary success, with Apple announcing this morning that it had officially sold more than 500,000 units in the first week:

Although we have delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week, demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad™. We have also taken a large number of pre-orders for iPad 3G models for delivery by the end of April.

Faced with this surprisingly strong US demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May. We will announce international pricing and begin taking online pre-orders on Monday, May 10.

While a large chunk of these were pre-orders that reflect early adopters, fanboys (and girls) and pent-up demand, it has now likely moved beyond that and will continue to do so over time. Playing, for the moment, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster (who tends to be consistently bullish on Apple sales) I would guess that by the end of the month or early May Apple will have sold 1 million iPads. 

For comparison purposes, as of a month ago, Flurry Analytics estimated that the HTC-Android Nexus One had sold about 135,000 handsets. 

A million iPads sold would be a "psychologically" significant figure; it would mean there was a real market there. More developers and publishers would appear or build iPad-specific apps and that would in turn boost sales momentum. ABC was the only TV network in the US to offer an iPad app. Its early success was discussed in the Wall Street Journal: 

The network said that in the 10 days since the iPad’s debut, its TV-show watching app has been downloaded 205,000 times, giving the Walt Disney Co. unit a presence on nearly half the 450,000 devices that Apple says it has sold. Moreover, users have watched at least part of 650,000 television episodes using the app, generating “several million” ad impressions, according to an ABC spokesman, although the precise number is still being calculated.

Disney-ABC television President Anne Sweeney says the network is pleased with the initial results.

ABC rivals and cable competitors will now follow suit -- undoubtedly fairly quickly. 

There are reports that a Google challenger to the iPad is about to launch (with Flash). It could provide formidable competition but is unlikely to best the iPad across the board in the same way that the iPhone remains superior overall to Android phones, despite areas in which Android is better than Apple's handset. 

And today the Android-based Alex eReader device went on sale, just one of scores of devices to come in the next 6 to 12 months. However at $399 they're unlikely to sell well vs. the more established Kindle eReader, which is cheaper, or the iPad (only a $100 more on the low end) with much more to offer. 

Regardless of whether device A or device B in particular does well, the iPad's early success represents another "iPhone moment": the establishment of a new computing paradigm and a new market for mobile. 

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Who are the iPad owners? AdColony conducted a survey that identifies them (at least according to self-reported data): 

Survey highlights report that 58.0 percent of respondents have bachelor's degrees or graduate/professional degrees and 44.3 percent earn a household income level of $100,000 or greater.  The results also show that of iPad users, over 48.7% own iPod touches, 43.0% own iPhones, and over 27.2% own BlackBerry devices.