Roundtable: How Big Is the iPad for Apple?

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The iPad's here, the iPad's here! And can you believe it? It sold nearly 700,000 units on its first day! Er, better make that 300,000. Still, not bad for a product sailing into tablet waters that humbled everyone from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) to tech start-ups over the past decade.

While launch day antics of consumers swarming Apple (NYSE: AAPL  ) stores and Best Buys (NYSE: BBY  ) , kids dancing around in giant iPad costumes, and frenzied buyers holding up new tablets in their best imitation of Charlton Heston from The 10 Commandments might be a fading memory, the real work now begins in earnest for the iPad.

 With launch impressions fresh in mind, we asked some of our technology analysts and writers to weigh in on how big the iPad will be for Apple in the years to come.

Eric Jhonsa, Writer: I walked into the Manhattan Apple store early Saturday evening. Yet for a little while, I felt like I'd walked into the Bronx Zoo by mistake. By my guess, Apple had about 25 iPads available for users to demo, and there were still about three times as many people fighting for the chance.

The iPad was largely what I expected it to be: A great information appliance and multimedia/gaming device, albeit with one frustrating weakness in its lack of support for Flash. If there were two things that surprised me about it, they were the speed of its 1GHz processor, which easily puts the iPhone 3GS' 600 MHz processor to shame, and how easily the device lent itself to communal use. Based on how others were using it, I think a big part of the iPad's appeal going forward will be how convenient it is to use one to share information, watch videos, and play games with those nearby.

At $629 and up with data plans at $30 per month, I think pricing for the 3G models is still going to be an issue. The sooner Apple offers subsidized prices with AT&T's (NYSE: T  ) help, the better. But either way, Apple has another hit on its hands.

Rick Munarriz, Motley Fool Rule Breakers Analyst/Writer: The iPad will be bigger than everyone thinks. Set aside the opening weekend numbers, because the 3G models -- the ones that the diehard early adopters that want portable connectivity want -- won't be out until later this month.

I wish it would have shipped with more of the features that it will inevitably have. Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) Slate is going to hit the market at a similar price point with not one -- but two -- cameras and plenty of ports and card slots. Regardless, the era of tablet computing is actually here.

I'm also loving that Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) became the hottest non-Apple app for the iPad over the weekend. This is going to become a multimedia workhorse, and you see it in the list of the top free downloads that include video-streaming sites and online newspapers.

Anders Bylund, Fool Writer: I'm surprised to hear that the iPad didn't smash launch day records, given the buildup before the launch. Will software updates and 3G-connected models give the iPad a second wind? Perhaps, but I'm not holding my breath. There are too many fish swimming into the tablet PC sea, and Apple's greatest innovation this time around was in squeezing an unprecedented low-cost data plan for it out of AT&T. Apple never brags about the Macbook Air anymore, and the iPad could get swept under the same low-impact rug.

Tim Beyers, Rule Breakers Analyst/Writer: Now that I've seen and played with the iPad, I can say two things with confidence. First, the design and form factor works better than I expected it would. Second, the execution is worse than I expected. Early reports of trouble with the iPad connecting to Wi-Fi networks have proven pervasive. 

The good news? Small network changes may be all that's required to get the iPad surfing and downloading at maximum speed. Apple's retail store Geniuses ought to be able to diagnose most issues to the satisfaction of iFans. Still, I wonder if the device's Wi-Fi woes will force Apple to revisit 3G iPads now in production. The last thing AT&T wants is to be associated with another device that has network issues.

Apple won't let that happen. Even so, those betting on the Mac maker's stock today because of increased iPad sales are making a mistake. They're presuming Apple has, to quote CEO Steve Jobs, made something magical, forgetting that nearly all the (ahem) "innovations" built into this product were introduced with the 2G iPhone. The notable difference: Apple's A4 chip, created by the team acquired with PA Semi

If there's any magic here, it's being created by the top app developers -- Netflix and  (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , in particular.

Now that launch day is over and you've had a chance to read about or handle the iPad, have your opinions changed on how it'll affect the tablet market or Apple? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!

This article was compiled by Eric Bleeker, who owns no shares of the stocks mentioned in this article. Tim Beyers owns stock and options on Apple. Anders Bylund and Rick Munarriz own shares of Netflix. Best Buy and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks., Best Buy, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy that's studying for a gardening test next Tuesday.

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (26)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 6:51 PM, cdoorman wrote:

    What does the fact that Apple did not sellout tell everyone? Are they getting better at predicting demand, or did they underestimate it?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 7:12 PM, ryanj1178 wrote:

    I like Apple's product's when the iphone came out that was a must have for me. However, I don't see how the Ipad is in the same ballpark. Many net books do what the ipad can do and then some. The only stand out thing to me is its design.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 8:10 PM, greenwave3 wrote:

    Apple was late to the party on this one, which is unusual for them. HP, Dell, and others released netbooks a long time ago, most of which are comparable to the iPod in terms of connectivity and performance.

    People today seem to be expecting more and more out of small gadgets, and the iPad seems to be a step in the other direction.

    The only real positive for Apple is that they may be able to woo some PC users and introduce them to their first Apple computers.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 8:13 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    newton 2.0

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 9:15 PM, fogelbaby wrote:

    Personally I think the iPad will be huge huge huge. I have one and it is life changinly great. I am already using my laptop 50% as much as before and am using the iPad for just about all my web surfing (including this comment). Email on iPad is awesome. Pandora on iPad is awesome. ETrade on iPad is awesome.

    Netflix, the thing that everybody is excited about, is actually not that awesome. The app is just a hard coded browser window that opens the Netflix site and allows video streaming. I am hoping they create an iPad hard coded app soon.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 9:26 AM, crash5858 wrote:

    My wife and I will both ultimately get one. But knowing that in a year or two the iPad will have more features, improvements, apps,... It will be a better value. We're patient, we'll wait.

    It is all part of a brilliant marketing plan. first the iPod, then the iPhone, next the iPad, whats after that? Apple is positioning itself to be THE major electronics brand for everything.

    Who knows, there may someday be the iCar, and the iCan-opener. It's going to be an Apple world.

  • Report this Comment On April 11, 2010, at 5:11 PM, drugstock2 wrote:

    The Apple store in Northbrook (IL) mall was packed. Lots of people, exploring the iPad, but no sales. Its a phenomenal toy, but I don't have $500.00 in spare change. I would rather buy 2 shares of AAPL.

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