iPad launch: Smaller queues, bigger sales
San Francisco - Apple launched the new iPad on Friday in 10 countries, and though queues were generally shorter than seen for the launch of the iPad 2 a year ago, analysts said that the sellout of online pre-order stocks boded well for a first day sales figure of one million iPads plus.
In San Francisco's flagship Apple store, the line snaked along only one side of a city block, a quarter as long as last year's line. At New York's Fifth Avenue main Apple store, market analysts from Piper Jaffray said that 750 people waited in line for the launch compared to 1 190 for the iPad 2 sale a year ago.
"We believe 3rd gen iPad sales are off to a strong start based on healthy lines in New York City and favourable language from Apple around the pre-order," the analysts said in a note to investors.
"We expected the line to be shorter than 750 given nine days of 'off-the-charts' pre-orders... There was no pre-order for iPad 2, which drove customers to stores.
"We think that on Monday, Apple will announce over 1m units of the 3rd gen iPad were sold on launch day including pre-orders."
Apart from the US, the iPad launched in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Britain.
On March 23, the new iPad is set to launch in 25 more markets, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macao, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Strong demand for the new iPad sent Apple shares past $600 for the first time ever on Thursday. While it looks the same as its predecessor, the iPad features a screen with four times as many pixels and also has a larger battery, a quad-core processor and more powerful camera.
Prices for the new device match those of its predecessor, the iPad 2, starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, up to $829 for a 64GB version with a 4G cellular option.
The stock milestone was reached just a month after Apple's shares passed the $500 mark and reflected analysts' optimism about strong sales of the new device and other Apple products driving the company's revenues and profits even higher. The stock is now up almost 50% on the year.
The iPad sold out last week in pre-orders from the company's websites and Apple opened its stores two hours earlier than usual to meet demand.
Analysts have raised their price targets for Apple following the announcement of the iPad, with many predicting it will shoot past the $700m mark from its current level of $580.
Many analysts have raised their forecasts of the number of iPads Apple is expected to sell, with Cannacord Genuity predicting 2012 totals of 65.6 million units sold, up from a previous estimate of 55.9 million. For 2013 the firm predicts iPad sales of 90.6 million, up from 79.7 million in an earlier estimate.