Apple announced July 19 that its iPad will be available in nine more countries starting July 23: Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore. Given that this is consistent with Apple's previously announced plans for a July rollout in those countries, it seems the company could very well be past the production bottleneck that caused iPad shipment delays earlier in the summer.
Apple will host its quarterly earnings call July 20, and likely will provide an update on total iPad sales. The tablet PC has proven popular with consumers, selling more than 3 million units in the 80 days following its April 3 release.
Apple could sell about 15 million iPads in 2010, predicted Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes, who wrote in a July 7 research note, "We believe this category will have a negative impact on overall PC unit volumes, pushing out and even replacing some notebook sales."
In Reitzes' assessment, Apple is in a prime position to dominate the tablet category. "Apple's vertical integration with software, online services, apps and design give it unparalleled advantages in time to market and ease of use for customers," he wrote. "We believe HP must demonstrate to investors that its Palm deal gives them exposure-and that it can use its distribution and link with printers to help gain a foothold." His research note predicted that total iPad sales for 2011 would be 20 million units.
Initial U.S. demand for the iPad forced its international rollout to be delayed to late May. In the wake of the iPad's marketplace success, other companies have announced their own tablet intentions: For example, Hewlett-Packard confirmed in a July 1 statement that its newly acquired Palm WebOS would serve as the operating system for its own upcoming slate PC as well as a variety of other hardware products.
Microsoft is another company that seems determined to enter the tablet PC market in a big way. During his July 12 keynote address at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that his company would soon shepherd a number of devices into the space: "They'll come with keyboards, they'll come without keyboards-there'll be many devices. But they will run Windows 7, they will run Office, they will accept ink- as well as touch-based input."
Microsoft, he added, is "hard-core about this."
With the latest international rollout, however, Apple has solidified its lead in the segment. Whether its competitors can create a compelling "iPad killer" remains to be seen.