First-day iPad sales top first-gen iPhone

Apple claims 300,000 iPads sold Saturday, but did not exhaust supply, says analyst

Apple today said it sold more iPads on Saturday than it sold first-generation iPhones in 2007 over a two-day period.

The 300,000 number that Apple touted included deliveries of pre-ordered iPads, sales at Apple's retail stores and shipments to its partners, the company said. The only other retail outlet selling iPads on Saturday was Best Buy.

In 2007, Apple reported selling 270,000 iPhones during the new smartphone's first two days of availability. Apple did not accept pre-orders for the iPhone before its June 29, 2007 launch. Instead, thousands lined up outside the company's retail stores, some waiting for days, to get their hands on the smartphone.

"The iPad did pretty much what I expected," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, as he compared the 300,000 iPads sold on Saturday to the iPhone launch three years ago.

Brian Marshall of BroadPoint AmTech estimated that Apple sold closer to half a million iPads over the weekend. Before Apple's sales announcement, Marshall had issued a research note to clients that put total iPad sales at 525,000 for Saturday and Sunday.

Today, he defended that number. "I still feel comfortable with my estimate," he said, explaining that earlier he had figured Apple would sell two-thirds of the 525,000 on Saturday, one-third the next day. He had projected lower sales for Sunday because some Apple and Best Buy stores were closed yesterday for the Easter holiday.

By that calculation, his estimate for Saturday alone -- 346,000 -- was about 15% above Apple's stated sales number. Using Marshall's two-thirds Saturday, one-third Sunday formula, Apple would have sold approximately 450,000 iPads total.

"In other words, the launch was great," said Marshall.

During the run-up to Saturday's launch, investment blogger Daniel Tello used iPad order numbers submitted by volunteers at Investor Village's AAPL Sanity message board to estimate pre-sales. Tello's last estimate, made on March 26, was that Apple had taken 240,000 pre-orders, a number that did not account for in-store reservations or bulk orders by businesses, schools and other organizations.

According to Marshall, Apple sold more iPads at its retail stores and through Best Buy over the weekend than it did in the three weeks of pre-orders, which were delivered to most customers Saturday.

However, unlike during the launch of the first-generation iPhone, Apple didn't exhaust its inventory of iPads. "Based on our spot checks, only a couple stores (San Francisco, Boston) were out completely or had very limited supply of the 16/32GB models, while the 64GB model was still plentiful," Marshall said in his note. "In general, it appears supply has not been an issue over the weekend."

Marshall's earnings model assumes Apple will sell about four million iPads this year, but as he had previously, today he said that number was conservative. "I think they'll sell closer to seven million," he said.

"I see the implications of the iPad as much more grandiose than the [first-generation] iPhone," Marshall concluded today in a telephone interview. "Its Apple's stepping stone into the living room, and key to its plan to ultimately integrate the home office and the living room."

Apple's online store continues to show a ship date for the WiFi-only iPad of April 12, while the model that also includes 3G connectivity is to launch later this month.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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