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Well, it’s finally here — Apple’s iPad hit stores on Saturday and now that consumers have their hands on the much ballyhooed tablet computer, it’s time to see if they’ll use it for the reason they said they would: work.
A recent study by mobility experts at Sybase found the No. 1 reason most buyers have for purchasing the iPad is to be able to work on the go.
Those who analyzed the data from the Sybase study believe it points to a growing appetite among consumers for more access to information and work apps on mobile devices — something business IT groups are going to be called on to budget for and support.
The study also pointed to the two things mobile users say they are looking for in a device: a wide array of functions (the iPad will have more than 100,000 applications available to users) and extended battery life (the tablet computer’s battery has a 10-hour life).
Everybody’s been debating the usefulness of the iPad since it was announced weeks ago. Critics point to its entertainment functions — movie watching and game playing — as evidence that the portable computer is little more than a toy.
However, in the Sybase survey, work-related tasks ranked at the top of users’ lists of anticipated tasks:
- More than half of smartphone users polled claimed they are most likely to use a new tablet device like the iPad to conduct work (52.3%).
- The idea of using an iPad or tablet device for work garnered the most interest from smartphone users, while watching movies and television programs, and playing games placed a close second and third respectively (48.2% and 35.4%).
- Three-quarters of smartphone users surveyed believe that smartphones and forthcoming devices like the iPad make people more productive at work, with one-third of those feeling that the productivity impact is significant.
While there are thousands of mobile apps available these days, consumers told Sybase they still have limited access to common enterprise applications they need for work:
- Access to both personal and work information continues to be lacking for most consumers. For respondents who have data on their mobile devices, the study shows that almost two-thirds estimate they have access to less than 10% of their personal data and work data (59.8% and 69.4% respectively). Access to work applications is also lacking, with almost three-quarters of respondents claiming they have access to less than 10% of the applications they need to do their jobs (72.3%).
- 67.6% of respondents with smartphones felt that if they could access twice the amount of information and applications they do today, it would make them more productive.
- When asked about what functions they wished their smartphones had, the ability to connect with work systems, and the ability to watch streaming television shows or movies topped users’ wish lists (27.1% and 27.2% respectively).
Regardless of studies and predictions from industry watchers, the iPad’s already proved to be something of a cultural phenomenon. Units available for purchase online — with in-store pick up scheduled for Saturday, April 3 – sold out well before that date.
Apple’s stock has also catapulted to record highs in the weeks since the iPad was announced. Just this week, Apple shares hit a 52-week high and analysts are expecting the price to climb to as high as $284 this year.
Overall, the company’s stock has exploded in the past year. It’s up 118% since last spring and climbed to over $237 a share last week. Back in January, share price had languished at below $200.
All this while other tech darlings — like Google — are struggling. Google’s stock is down 10% this year to date, while Apple’s is up the same amount since January 1.
Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray believed Apple would sell 200,000 to 300,000 iPads in its first weekend, bringing his total unit estimate to 2.7 million in 2010. He also thought his estimates may be conservative, given the extraordinary initial demand. Munster’s been quoted as saying he believes the breakout year for the iPad will ultimately be next year (calendar 2011) with 8 million iPad units estimated to be sold.
The iPad’s made such a splash that a popular new ABC sitcom — “Modern Family” — built an entire episode around one character’s obsession with getting (and eventually cradling and stroking) his brand new iPad. It should also be noted that other computers in the show were also Apple products, indicating a pretty active product placement deal.
Does this mean that the iPad will be the “game changing” technology some have predicted it will be? User reviews so far have been fairly glowing (read the New York Times assessment here) both for the tablet computer’s speed, ease of use and graphical display..
If consumers do use it primarily for work — and abandon their smartphones — it really could be game changing.
Last minute update:
According to Bloomberg, sales of iPad in its debut weekend will likely be double what was originally estimated.
Piper Jaffray predicted 200,000 to 300,000 units would be sold. Sanford C. Bernstein & Company predicted 300,000 to 400,000. However, the first day has seen an estimated 700,000 of the tablets out the door. (See ReadWriteWeb’s ongoing coverage of the iPad launch.)
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