Apple's iPad gets off to fast start, but future is uncertain

A customer at an Apple store in San Francisco celebrates as one of the first to buy an iPad as it went on sale Saturday.

Associated Press

A customer at an Apple store in San Francisco celebrates as one of the first to buy an iPad as it went on sale Saturday.

LOS ANGELES — For Apple and its iPad, the easy part is over.

After months of marketing hype that had fans grabbing their wallets over the weekend, Apple announced Monday that it sold more than 300,000 of its new tablet computers Saturday — a one-day total that topped the 2007 debut sales tallies for the original iPhone.

The company also said that, as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday, users had downloaded more than 1 million applications — the small programs users can add to their devices — and nearly 250,000 ebooks from the company's iBookstore.

Yet, given the country's economic malaise and the iPad's hefty price tag, analysts warned that questions linger as to when — or if — there will be similar mass market adoption of the tablet as there has been of Apple's blockbuster iPod and iPhone devices. (The iPhone 3GS sold 1 million units in its first three days last year.)

They said the initial customers would be dominated by early adopters or Apple enthusiasts, who might be more forgiving of kinks that the company may not have worked out.

"Apple reached first base," said Francis Sideco, an analyst at iSuppli Corp., an El Segundo, Calif., research firm. Now, he added, "they've got to go get everyone else."

Some prospective buyers may be waiting until the end of the month for the 3G version of the iPad, which will cost up to $829, but allow consumers to use the device more like a smart phone. That could pose a problem down the road for Apple, say analysts who point out that the company must walk a careful line with its iPad to ensure the device doesn't eat into sales of its popular line of laptops or iPhone.

But none of those concerns tempered Apple executives' glee at the consumer turnout.

"It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world," chief executive Steve Jobs said in a statement. "It's going to be a game-changer."

Nearly 3,300 apps specifically developed for the iPad are available so far, a third of them games, according to Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.

More apps, he said, are sure to come. "As long as the iPad keeps selling, you're going to see a lot more innovation on this platform." The apps market for the iPhone and iPod Touch together tops $1 billion in annual sales.

Fans said they were happy, even giddy, after their purchase. Aimee Willis of West Hollywood had her husband playing babysitter most of the weekend so she could play with her new toy.

"It's completely mind-blowing and insane," Willis said.

But Apple also took some licks: At least one fan tried to tap into the iPad mania on YouTube. Justin Kockott uploaded a video Sunday of himself and friends brutally destroying the $499 device with a baseball bat. Less than 24 hours later, it had been viewed 280,000 times.

Apple's iPad gets off to fast start, but future is uncertain 04/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 5, 2010 9:06pm]

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