I suppose some industry analysts who forecast extremely rosy sales for the iPad during the March quarter this year were somewhat disappointed that less than five million were sold. Apple’s response, which seems sensible enough in light of the ongoing backorder situation, was that they were building as many as they can, but struggling to meet demand.
Even as the iPad 2 has become available at more and more dealers, in more and more countries, you may still have problems getting the model and color you want. Apple’s online store is still reporting a wait of from one to two weeks on all configurations. At the same time, there are rumors that they are having problems getting the components they need, because of the ongoing supply disruptions in Japan.
So whatever the demand for the iPad 2 might be, Apple can barely keep up. I think that’s a given, but it doesn’t stop some so-called tech pundits from imagining all sorts of dire sales problems for the iPad.
Consider a recent report, which shall not be linked here, because the author doesn’t deserve the hits, where the possibility that iPad 2 sales will be way below expectations is regarded as an absolute certainty. Citing the figures in the March quarter, the author (make that hack) concludes that no more than five million will be sold in each subsequent quarter, based on little or no evidence. Now five million, more or less, would mean that a total of 20 million iPads will be moved in 2011. That’s not too shabby, although it would fall way below the original expectations of 30 to over 40 million. This lower figure also wouldn’t account for the usual bumps for back-to-school purchases or the holidays.
If that figure holds true, you wonder how the writer in question concludes that only some ten or 12 million will be sold this year. If it doesn’t add up to you, it surely doesn’t to me. That takes fuzzy math to the limits of absurdity and then some.
Now the real test of the iPad 2’s potential will be the results from the current quarter. Assuming high demand continues, and Apple is ramping up the production lines as rapidly as possible in light of potential parts constrains and so on, the figures will be closely examined for trends. If Apple moves some eight or ten million iPads, you can bet that those projections of 2011 totals in the neighborhood of 40 million might be realized, assuming sales continue a steep climb.
If there are ongoing production shortages, maybe sales won’t be much better than the last quarter. You’d have to wonder, though, why Apple continues to add dealers around the world if they can’t meet demand. Well, I suppose the critics might suggest, and without evidence, that demand is flagging and Apple is adding outlets to compensate. Again, you won’t know the final answers until the quarterly financial figures are out, although such industry analysis organizations as the NDP Group would have a reasonable handle on demand for the iPad in the U.S. That will provide an early clue.
All this is happening while it seems that every single iPad wannabe is failing. The latest reports have it that RIM has sold (or at least shipped) 250,000 BlackBerry PlayBooks so far this quarter, with an estimate of a potential of 500,000 by the end of June. That’s probably better than the Motorola Xoom and other tablets, but obviously a fraction of what Apple is doing.
I also wonder what sort of customers are gravitating to the PlayBook. Without surveys to go by, I rather suspect most are existing BlackBerry customers, because you need to bridge to a BlackBerry to use an email client; that limitation will supposedly be fixed one of these days. Potential customers who don’t own a BlackBerry are hardly inclined to one to buy one just to gain this capability, which will still be blocked by some wireless carriers without an extra data plan, since it amounts to tethering.
It didn’t help RIM’s situation to have to recall some 1,000 units, mostly distributed to Staples office supply chain stores, because a defective version of the operating system was installed. As I suggested in my column on the subject earlier this week, RIM cannot afford to make a bad first impression if they hope to sell lots of PlayBooks. The ads for the product that I’ve seen so far, apart from the noisy special effects, curiously tout the ability to multitask by playing multiple videos at the same time. You wonder why anyone would want to do that on a gadget with a seven-inch display. Other than looking cool in a TV ad, well I suppose it is intended to look cool, in the real world, you wouldn’t want to waste resources running all those videos at the same time. The iPad 2’s smarter multitasking would suspend all but the one video you’re actually watching.
But that feature, such as it is, gives RIM the ability to call their version of multitasking “true” as opposed to Apple’s which is, to them, false, although it does cover the needs of most users. And, no, I won’t get into the argument about whether the iOS limited multitasking scheme might be enhanced in some ways. I’ll just say that I agree that it can be made better, but that unfettered is not a viable option. Besides, I don’t think most potential tablet customers are going to care about the fineries of multitasking.
In any case, there’s no evidence that the burgeoning tablet market is anything more than an iPad market, more or less. It may be the iPod experience repeating itself, which may not please Apple’s competitors, but that’s the way things are, at least for now.
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