iPad Launch Sellout Indicates Strong Business Demand

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Apple has sold out of iPads. Estimates suggest that Apple has sold hundreds of thousands of the tablet device which doesn't officially launch until April 3. The overwhelming demand for the iPad indicates what recent polls have suggested--business professionals have big plans for the consumer-oriented media gadget.

There are a fair number of Apple faithful that will purchase anything with a half-eaten fruit logo on it sight unseen, and probably also a significant number of consumers interested in putting the iPad "magic" to use. But, with prices starting at $500 for the 16gb Wi-Fi model, and going up to $830 for the 64Gb 3G model, it seems reasonable to assume that there aren't 300,000 plus consumers with that kind of disposable money to throw down just so they can watch Star Trek on a larger screen while riding the train.

A survey commissioned by Sybase found that "the number one reason U.S. consumers would use a device such as the Apple iPad is for working on the go." The nearly 2500 survey participants indicated business use over watching movies or playing games.

Face it; the iPad has some advantages over traditional netbook and notebook form factors. First, it is instant-on rather than having to wait for the system to boot up. It has ten-hour battery life (as do some netbooks--so that is not a clear differentiator). It has a large display, yet can be held and read one-handed, and has a multitouch display with no need for touchpads, tracksticks, or an external mouse.

It may not have Flash, and multitasking is still just a rumor on the horizon, but there are a variety of situations where a slim, lightweight tablet can perform all of the tasks a mobile business professional needs just as well or better than a heavier, more cumbersome notebook computer.

Granted, intentionally limiting initial supply to create a false sense of demand is a common marketing tactic. Nintendo created hype for the Wii gaming console by limiting supplies and forcing consumers to shop aggressively and wait in line for hours to get one. Users who may not be interested in the iPad, or who are on the fence, may be compelled to jump on the bandwagon when they hear that it is so successful that you can't even get one anymore.

Of course, it could also simply be a matter of poor planning or a lack of confidence by Apple. Perhaps, Apple underestimated the initial demand and failed to adequately ramp up production, or maybe Apple wanted to hedge its bets by intentionally lowballing initial production. Doing so enables Apple to see what the real-world demand is before going crazy with production, and still creates a sort of false sense of success even if initial iPad sales are underwhelming.

Apple has never had any self-esteem issues, so it is more likely that Apple simply underestimated initial demand, or intentionally limited production to create a false sense of demand for marketing hype--or both. Either way, with estimated pre-sales of 250,000 to as much as 500,000 units, it would seem that the iPad is on track to prove the naysayers wrong.

Business professionals that didn't get in on the pre-order stampede have little to fear, though. Analysts estimate that Apple could sell as many as five million iPads during this calendar year, and Apple apparently has big plans to sell as many as 13 million over the next five years. Apple is alleged to have an $800 million, five-year agreement with LG to produce 10 million iPad displays, and is also rumored to have entered into a $250 million, three-year agreement with Samsung for an additional three million displays.

I pose the question to the PCWorld Bizfeed readers. Have you pre-ordered an iPad? Are you considering purchasing an iPad? If you are joining the iPad revolution--do you plan to use it for business or work functions as well, or strictly as a consumer media gadget? What advantages or disadvantages do you think the iPad has, and what business functions do you plan to use it for?

The responses could be interesting and help clarify the reality of iPad business use from the hype and speculation.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW . You can follow him on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com .

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