"This was a triumph.
I'm making a note here:
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction."
-- From Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton, 2007
The numbers are in, and the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad is doing OK. Mr. Coulton's contribution to National Poetry Month 2010 above is spoken tongue-in-cheek by a sarcastic computer, so I think it's just about right for the occasion -- first-day sales weren't tremendous, mind you, but Cupertino did all right.
Early analyst estimates had pointed to first-day iPad sales of maybe 700,000 units, but the official word is about half of that at "more than 300,000." That's still better than the first day of iPhone sales, way back in the mists of time, and many prospective buyers might be holding off until the next model drops with a remarkably affordable AT&T (NYSE: T ) 3G connection. Oh, and Apple will present a sneak peak of version 4 of the iPhone operating system this Thursday; that's the software that makes the iPad come alive as well, and with a few tweaks here and there Apple might end the no-multitasking dilemma. Given those mitigating circumstances, one might expect the sexy tablet computer to be a bona fide hit when all is said and done.
I'm not convinced, though. The iPhone made history by redefining what a smartphone can be, paving the way for a whole new market brick by hard-won brick. It was a surprise, a shocker, an unannounced triumph -- Apple made a phone? The slow start was understandable, especially since high-speed wireless data plans were hard to come by in 2007.
This time is different. The hyper-connected infrastructure that makes iPads attractive is already in place whether you like AT&T, Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , or Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) . Unlike the iPhone, this gadget was hyped to the high heavens ahead of time. Everyone expected the iPad to be awesome. Early sales should have gone through the roof.
And that didn't happen. When even the most rabid Apple fans choose to await software updates or better hardware before jumping in with both feet, I don't see the excitement matching the expectations. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) seems to have a winner in its upcoming Windows Phone 7 mobile platform, which looks like a great fit for tablet-sized devices too. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android tablets are coming in fast, and they're looking pretty good. Unlike the early days of the iPhone, the iPad doesn't do anything that the competition doesn't, bringing back memories of Verizon's pointed "Droid Does" commercials for the Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) Droid phone.
Apple's aesthetics may be unmatched, but the iPad's functionality isn't -- yet. I can see sales trailing off rather than picking up as consumers realize that there are other choices on the market already. That won't hurt Apple much, but somebody should give Steve Jobs a hug. He must be disappointed.