iPad 2 Sales Hit 500,000 at Launch, Says Munster

Apple's iPad 2 sold at least 500,000 units at launch, according to Piper Jaffray, which counted long lines and unit sell-outs in New York City and Minnesota.

Apple may have sold as much as 500,000 iPad 2 devices on its first day of sales March 11, or 200,000 more than the first iPad sold in its first weekend of sales last April, according to an industry analyst.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who predicted before the iPad 2 went on sale that he expected the device to sell more than the first iPad, said his estimation of 400,000 to 500,000 iPad 2s sold only covers the launch day.

That's because Apple stores and retailers such as Target and Best Buy he spoke to were out of the popular tablet computer, which is thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor, by the end of the day and did not receive more shipments over the weekend.

Piper Jaffray counted 1,190 people in line at Apple's 5th Ave. store at 5 p.m. on Friday, compared to 730 people in line for the first iPad when it launched at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 3, 2010.

The opening weekend of iPad 2 sales was a resounding success, forcing Munster to acknowledge he earlier underestimated iPad 2 demand.

"Strong demand in stores and online suggests that our estimate of 5.5 million iPads in the March quarter is likely conservative," said Munster, whose research team spoke with 236 iPad 2 buyers March 11 in New York City and Minneapolis.

Piper Jaffray's Munster wasn't the only analyst team to haunt Apple and Best Buy stores in America for the iPad 2 landing.

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry checked out four Apple stores and three Best Buy locations and estimated Apple sold three times more iPad 2 tablets in the first two days of the launch versus the first iPad.

Each Best Buy sold its 40 iPad 2 units in 4 minutes, and took a $100 deposit per device for the next shipments this week.

Customer lines to purchase the new iPad 2 were more than three times long versus lines for the first iPad April 3, 2010. Moreover, almost half of the people purchased two iPad 2s.

Meanwhile, Munster discovered that 70 percent of iPad 2 buyers were new to the iPad, an indication that Apple is expanding its base of iPad users.

This should bolster Apple's early lead in the nascent tablet market, which Forrester Research said was 90 percent through 2010 and should end 2011 at 80 percent, owing to Apple's strong brand and channel affinities.

The iPad 2's closest competition in terms of features, form and performance is the Motorola Xoom Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet, which is reportedly suffering weak sell-through, likely due to its $799 cost off contract, $599 tag with Verizon Wireless contract.

HP's TouchPad and RIM's PlayBook are on the way this spring, while several more Honeycomb tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, LG Optimus and others are also in the tablet pipeline.