iPad sales fall shy of upbeat expectations

Apple sold about 300,000 iPads on the tablet computing device’s first day on the market, falling short of the most bullish projections and charting a course for a more modest initial adoption trend.

The company said the figure was based on the number of iPads delivered in the US to retailers, customers’ homes and businesses and/or sold directly at its own stores by midnight on Saturday.

The figure was in line with consensus estimates before the weekend, though some analysts, notably Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, had forecast double those sales.

Apple limited the release of the iPad to the US market and advance orders to two per customer. The first version of the gadget – seen by many as Apple’s most important new product since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 – only offers Wi-Fi connectivity, rather than a connection to the internet over a mobile network. Nevertheless, the debut day’s unit sales were slightly ahead of those at the 2007 US launch of the highly successful iPhone.

Sales of the iPhone and iPod Touch, which has similar software and functionality to the iPad, have soared since then, with 75m units in circulation as of January.

Many analysts said the iPad would take longer than the iPhone to find its market because the online marketplace for games, media content and reconfigured programs is just getting off the ground. It is also trying to create a new market segment as it is not intended to replace phones or regular PCs. The iPad does not come with a mouse or keyboard and requires finger-touches to function, a new way for most people to interact with software.

Interviews and online postings showed that early customers were happy with the gadgets, which has a starting price of $499.

Apple has told suppliers it wants to sell 1m units a month, according to analyst checks with the supply chain. This figure is twice as high as many analysts on Wall Street are forecasting for the first year.

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