Even as its rivals prepare their own tablet PCs for the holiday shopping season, Apple seems determined to increase the reach of its iPad into more markets: Not only will the WiFi-only version of the device go on sale in China by the end of the week, but it might also hit Target stores sometime this fall.
According to a Sept. 13 press release from Apple, the iPad will "be available to customers in China from Apple Retail Stores, and select Apple Authorized Resellers" starting Sept. 17. The 16GB version will retail for the equivalent of $589; the 32GB for $708; and the 64GB for $826. That represents something of a premium over U.S. pricing, where the 16GB retails for $499; the 32GB for $599; and the 64GB for $699.
The rumor mill's also churning busily over the iPad potentially arriving at Target within the next few months. In a Sept. 12 post, tech blog Engadget mentioned receiving "a list featuring a mysteriously unnamed product that's set to become available October 3rd (in six different versions, no less)" along with a screenshot-from a Target inventory-tracking PDA-showing item numbers that correspond with iPad prices. The unnamed products will apparently end up in the stores' Digital Audio section.
Whether or not those rumors are true, Apple will likely continue to sell a large number of iPads. A September research note from UBS Investment Research predicted sales of 28 million units in 2011, perhaps affecting the market for traditional low-end notebooks.
"Sales of traditional notebooks appear to be feeling pressure from the iPad, causing a scramble by vendors to launch iPad-like tablets," analyst Maynard Um wrote in that note. "We believe that a majority of the impact is occurring on the lower end of PC sales as the iPad is priced close enough to this range that it becomes attractive to consumers looking to make purchases within this segment."
In addition, wrote UM: "Consumers who purchase iPads may be more willing to delay purchases and upgrades of existing PCs." He did, however, stop short of suggesting that the iPad will cannibalize the notebook market.
The other question is whether upcoming tablet rivals can substantially dent the iPad's market-share. Current rumors suggest that the Samsung Galaxy Tab will be offered on Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, potentially giving it a sizable advantage against the AT&T-only iPad. However, the iPad's carrier model, which allows users to switch off the connection-and the cost that comes with it-might allow Apple to keep its advantage in the tablet-connectivity arena over Samsung, which could insist that users bind themselves to a two-year carrier contract.
Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and other manufacturers all either have a tablet on the marketplace or are preparing one for launch in the coming quarters.