New iPad Could Have Blockbuster Opening Weekend

Apple's new iPad could have a strong sales weekend, at least based on the lines assembling at Apple Stores around the country.

Sales of Apple€™s new iPad could be off to a €œstrong start,€ according to one analyst.

€œAt the flagship 5th Avenue store in NYC, we observed 750 people in-line at 8AM, the time when the 3rd gen iPads went on sale,€ Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in a co-authored March 16 research note. €œThis compares to 1,190 last year at the time of the iPad 2 sale.€

While that might not seem like a €œstrong start€ at all, he suggested the reduced number of people in line was in fact €œbetter than we expected€ given the combination of €œnine days of pre-orders€ for the new tablet, along with the 8 A.M. release time (when a lot of people would presumably need to head to work, instead of wait in a line outside an Apple Store) and the presence of a Grand Central Terminal store nearby.

At the Grand Central Terminal store, eWEEK found a line of several dozen iPad purchasers that, while long, nonetheless moved at a fairly quick pace. At 8:30 a.m., the line was smaller and less energetic than the one for that store€™s grand opening (so to speak) in December 2011. According to news reports, Apple Stores around the country also had lines in front of them ahead of the opening, and shipment times from Apple€™s online store have steadily crept up to two to three weeks€”an indicator of high demand.

Munster also believes that the new iPad will end up selling more than 1 million units during its first day of release. €œWe expect Apple to sell more than [1 million] iPads on 3/16, the day the new iPad hits retail stores,€ he wrote in a March 12 research note. €œWhile the sell-through number is impossible to predict given uncertain iPad supply levels, sales of over [1 million] iPads on launch day would be a slight positive relative to the Street consensus at 10.1 [million] iPads in the Mar-12 quarter.€

The new iPad (Apple hasn€™t given it an official-sounding name along the lines of €œiPad HD€ or €œiPad 3€) features a high-resolution Retina Display, an improved camera and processor, and comparable battery life to its predecessors.

If that wasn€™t enough to pressure the competition, the new iPad€™s prices top out at $699 for the WiFi-only, 64GB model and $829 for the 64GB model with WiFi and 4G. Those in the United States will have the option of purchasing the new iPad with 4G LTE connectivity on either Verizon Wireless or AT&T.

Actual sales numbers will almost certainly have to wait until Apple reveals them; but in the interim, it doesn€™t appear as if the new iPad was a highly unexpected flop.

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