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Summary:

Even though a single iPad hasn’t actually been shipped, that won’t stop the questions over the success of initial orders from being asked. Considering how Apple has positioned the iPad in the product lineup, on par with the Mac, iPod, and iPhone, Steve Jobs better have […]

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Even though a single iPad hasn’t actually been shipped, that won’t stop the questions over the success of initial orders from being asked. Considering how Apple has positioned the iPad in the product lineup, on par with the Mac, iPod, and iPhone, Steve Jobs better have a press-release answer ready.

On Friday, Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Apple 2.0 started following people following the numbers, though whether those numbers are real or imaginary is yet to be determined. The data thus far derived has come from InvestorVillage, an Internet forum for “self-directed investors.”

By using orders numbers from an admittedly small number of purchasers, and accounting for purchases of other products at the Apple Store, the initial estimate was 51,000 in the first two hours, 74,000 after four and a half hours, and 91,000 in six hours. According to Apple 2.0, by the end of Friday the estimated number of iPad pre-orders was approximately 120,000. That’s the good news, assuming it’s true.

Apple 2.0 also passed along metrics for 110 iPads that are what you’d expect, Wi-Fi over 3G by two to one, the cheapest iPad at $499 being very popular. Somewhat surprisingly, the most expensive model, 64GB/3G at $829, was also popular but, hey, these are self-directed investors spending their hard-earned dividends that we’re talking about.

Of course, there’s another group of investors waiting for news on iPad orders. Investors in AAPL saw their fortunes rise on Friday with the stock price reaching a new high at $227, the company briefly overtaking Wal-Mart in valuation at $206 billion. Whether AAPL goes higher on Monday will likely come down to how many iPad orders there were over the weekend, but how many equals success?

Looking back at iPhone launches, a million iPads ordered would definitely be a success, probably more than all the Slate PCs with Windows sold since 2002. Don’t expect that to happen. Both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS were immediately available in multiple countries. While the iPad will be available in other countries in late April, the first weekend of the month will be U.S. only, so perhaps the original iPhone would be a better comparison. Certainly, if the iPad does outsell the original iPhone, that will be the spin, but what if it doesn’t?

Everyone who wanted to order an iPad could have ordered one Friday. There were no lines at the online Apple Store. Even assuming the number crunchers at InvestorVillage got it right on Friday, it seems unlikely to me anything like 120,000 orders will be placed on successive days. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the number ordered is halved on successive days, 210,000 total over three days. 210,000 iPads doesn’t look very good compared to the iPhone launch, does it? The only thing worse would be if Apple doesn’t release any numbers.

In an interview with the New York Times last year, Jobs remarked on Amazon’s silence over Kindle sales, saying, “usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.” That’s exactly why we’ve never heard about Apple TV sales, and it’s what will be the real metric for whether iPad orders were a success over the weekend. If there is silence from Cupertino, expect investors to react with wailing and selling of AAPL. More importantly for consumers, there could be an immediate drop in the price for the iPad, similar to what happened with the original iPhone shortly after launch.

I think that’s the kind of failure we can all appreciate.

Related Research from GigaOM Pro:

  1. I was all set to pre-order a WiFi model until Apple revealed that only the 3G model will have a GPS chip. That made me reconsider, and now I’m leaning toward waiting until those are available. I’ll still probably visit a store on April 3rd to play around with one.

    1. Steve Linscombe Scott Monday, March 15, 2010

      Or, you could just get this instead… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgqnOqfehJE

      :)

  2. 200K preorders in the middle of March for an item few people have seen let alone touched sounds pretty good to me.

    1. Your point about the timing is well taken. People tend to back off on purchases as they get closer to April 14 and tax deadline in the USA. Sales pick up again as the refund checks start coming in.

      That said I ordered an iPad for late April today and I expect that if some horrid problem with the Apple iPad is discovered by the earliest adapters I can cancel the Apple order. If not I will not have to wait through any supply crush to be resolved as more and more try to purchase an iPad for business and school use.

  3. The thing is, neither the original iPhone nor the 3g had pre-orders, so those numbers. Pre-ordering and buying a product in store are two very, very different things. Only the 3gs had pre-orders, and I’m pretty sure those numbers above reflect not only the pre-orders, but the actual in store launch sales as well. Not to mention that the 3gs wasn’t a new product, but an update of one that had two years of exposure to consumers.

    Also, the iPad hasn’t launched yet, it’s only up for pre-order, so it sounds kind of silly to ask a question like “was the launch a success?”

  4. Oops– just ignore the “so those numbers” at the end of the first sentence.

  5. When you have nothing to write about you end up setting your imagination free.

  6. Calling this a ‘launch weekend’ is disingenuous.

    This is just pre orders and for U.S alone and the delivery is weeks away. No store sales at all.

    Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK won’t even get pre orders until later. No date for big iPhone buying countries like South Korea or Hong Kong (China).

    “Everyone who wanted to order an iPad could have ordered one Friday” comment is silly.

    Pre orders are completely different from in store sales. This is a new product and many people would like to see and handle it first. There hasn’t been a single hands on review from anybody, not from Pogue, Mossberg, Wired etc only comments from people handling the device for a few at Steve Jobs presentation.

    Without reviews, without hands on with the device, 100,000 plus pre orders in one day for the U.S alone for a new product is huge.

    The Nexus One the so called Google ‘super phone’ which pundits laud as a hit only sold 20,000 or so in launch week in spite of many hands on reviews (which as I mentioned the iPad currently has none), the Droid after 100 $ million ad campaign sold only 250,000 in launch week with big in store promotions.

    1. I’ll like to clarify my statement “There hasn’t been a single hands on review from anybody, not from Pogue, Mossberg”

      Although Pogue and Mossberg have commented on their first impressions of the iPad at the Steve Jobs presentation both have not released their formal reviews. Mossberg “I have only spent a short time hands-on with the iPad–too short to fully run it through its paces and formally review it yet.”

    2. The thing is it doesn’t matter whether this weekend is the actual launch weekend because perception will become reality. News outlets will report on the iPad “launch.” Wall Street will react to the number of pre-orders, or more importantly the lack of an announcement. Sure, it’s not fair, but it’s an unintended consequence of hype, hype that Apple is more than a little responsible for.

    3. That’s bull. When Call of Duty starts taking in pre-orders, you don’t hear the press talking about a “successful launch”, you hear them talking about “amazing pre-order numbers”. They’ll mention “numbers” and “orders” a lot, but I doubt they’ll use “launch” in the context you’re trying to convey. Pre-orders are part of the pre-launch process, not the launch.

      If news outlets comments on the launch at all, they may say “these numbers indicate the iPad will have a(n) [strong/weak/average] launch in April”.

    4. Charles, stick to what you know. Spouting blogger boilerplate cliches about media (“perception will become reality”) makes you look dumb.

      Preorders ≠ product-in-hand.

    5. Disingenuous indeed. No substance or insight to this article whatsoever. Hard to believe people get paid to write this kind of stuff. Even harder to believe I wasted my time reading and commenting on it.

      The bait worked and now I’m wiser for it.

  7. No matter the numbers, we will not see a price drop. It is priced to perfection between the lower end macs and above the iPod touch and iPhones. There really is very little room to move without bumping into the other lines.

    You sound like someone shorting the stock and throwing “price drop”‘out there to freeze buyers.

    Given the price and the type of device it is, and the fact you can’t even touch one yet, I put success at anything over 50,000 units paid for in the first weekend.

    1. <>

      That’s what it sounds to me too – the disingenuous mention of Apple TV sales without saying Apple always consider Apple TV a hobby, and then the quantum leap to the statement: “If there is silence from Cupertino, expect investors to react with wailing and selling of AAPL.” Yep, nothing but a pathetic set-up by a tool to influence share price.

  8. Jindo & Ryan could’t have make the point better. No one in the real world have seen an actual iPad let alone play with it. Except for media and tech junkies most people din’t even know the iPad pre-orders started. I mean I told a coworker i had pre-order one and he said “I though the were coming out next month” When i told him he can pre-order one she did. So if the numbers are even half of what is been rumored I think is pretty good and it will only get better.

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