Lining up for a second helping of iPad

Mar 11, 2011
Finance

Let the pre-orders begin. Early this morning, Apple (AAPL) started selling iPad 2 online: “Thinner. Lighter. Faster.” was the billing, along with smart covers, 10-hour battery life, starting at $499, a nice price well below the emerging competition. Shipping may take two to three weeks. There’s no overnight shipping. Some people in remote areas have […]

Let the pre-orders begin.

Early this morning, Apple (AAPL) started selling iPad 2 online: “Thinner. Lighter. Faster.” was the billing, along with smart covers, 10-hour battery life, starting at $499, a nice price well below the emerging competition.

Shipping may take two to three weeks. There’s no overnight shipping. Some people in remote areas have no choice, but others can’t wait. No impulse control. Must have iPad 2. So lines are expected at Apple stores as well as AT&T (T) and Verizon Wireless (VZ) outlets as the iPad 2 goes on sale later this afternoon.

Last year, Apple said it sold 300,000 iPads on Day 1 in April 2010. Time will tell how well Apple does today. But reviews of the Second Coming have been good, though emphasizing evolution rather than revolution. And the analysts are predicting 500,000 to 600,000 in iPad 2 sales this weekend, eclipsing iPad 1, according to Bloomberg.

Analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies and a veteran Apple watcher, said: “Apple has such a huge lead… Competitors are going to be chasing Apple for many years.” He projects 500,000 in sales in two days.

Sarah Rotman at Forrester said Apple will withstand the competition—unless Amazon (AMZN) comes in as a disruptor: “Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80 percent share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011.

“But what comes next? It would be easy to call the game for Apple as the second inning is starting, but we won’t, because we see a market that’s ripe for disruption by Amazon in particular. Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon’s storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service, and its recommendations engine.”

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Over at CultofMac, John Brownlee said that as a tech journo he needs iPad 2, but the thought of going to an Apple store today was a bit much: “I already feel slightly sordid about it, and that’s without lining up hours ahead of time in front of my local Apple Store, becoming part of a cheering biomass of sweaty flesh. The very idea of running the gantleope of high-fiving Geniuses — each proffering a palm that is as chapped and vessel-burst after a thousand slaps as that of a paraplegic prostitute sitting in the back row of a Times Square movie theater — is enough to make me feel queasy.”

Still, he feels the lure of iPad 2, even though it’s only a slight improvement over the first iPad.

I remember when the first iPhone came out in June 2007, the shorter lines in Chicago anyway were over at AT&T. There was a circus-like atmosphere along Michigan Avenue and around the corner of the Apple store. People go for the Apple line for fun and bragging rights. Waiting in line at AT&T or Verizon seems so businesslike.

When Verizon launched its iPhone last month, lines were surprisingly short.

So iPad 2 buyers who feel claustrophobic in crowds might opt for AT&T or Verizon stores. (Check CNNMoney for an analysis of the Verizon vs. AT&T plans.)

Outlets for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co. and Target Corp. are other options, albeit less sexy than even AT&T and Verizon.

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But if you skip the fun at your neighborhood Apple store, you’ll miss out on the cult(ural) phenom of a new product launch in Steve Jobs’ world.

Brownlee is having trouble resisting: “I still don’t think I can stomach an Apple Store today, but maybe I’ll end up sauntering by an AT&T store later this afternoon after all. Purely by coincidence, I assure you.”

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