Apple's iPad will be available in Wal-Mart stores starting Oct. 15, giving the company yet another sales channel for the popular tablet PC, which faces the prospect of increased competition by the end of the year.
Wal-Mart apparently plans on selling the iPad "for the same price as other retailers," according to Reuters.
Target already offers four variations of the iPad, including all three WiFi-only and one 3G-capable model. Best Buy carries all six iPad models, as do Apple's retail stores. Analyst firms such as UBS Investment Research have predicted tens of millions of iPads sold in 2011, providing a strong incentive for retailers to carry the device.
"People are willing to disproportionally spend for these devices because they are becoming so important to their lives," Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, is quoted as saying in a Sept. 14 Wall Street Journal interview. "We are really positioning the company to be the place where people can come and see the best of the connected world."
Wal-Mart will likely follow in Best Buy's footsteps and heavily promote the iPad during the holiday shopping season.
Sales of Apple iPads are outpacing those of both iPhones and DVD players, according to one recent analyst note, putting them on track to become the country's fourth-largest consumer electronics category. "The iPad did not seem destined to be a runaway product success straight out of the box," Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan wrote, according to CNBC. "By any account, the iPad is a runaway success of unprecedented proportion."
McGranahan estimated the iPad's current sales rate at 4.5 million units per quarter, and 2011 revenues for the device at around $9 billion.
But will the iPad maintain that projected momentum in the face of competition? The Android-running Samsung Galaxy Tab is scheduled to debut in fall 2010 on four carriers, and both Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion are prepping tablet PCs for release over the next few months. In addition, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has repeatedly emphasized how entering the tablet market is a priority for his company, which will push its manufacturing partners to produce Windows-equipped tablets.
Rumors have circulated that Apple is preparing a second-generation version of the iPad for release in early 2011, with new features such as front- and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing. However, Apple is remaining characteristically tight-lipped about its future plans.