Apple iPad Sales: Why Tablets Are Even Bigger Than We Thought

Consumer product strategists, even those not in direct competition with Apple, should pay attention to the iPad, because it’s defying common assumptions about consumer technology adoption.

In Tuesday’s earnings call, Apple announced that it has sold 3.27 million iPads in the quarter ending June 26. On June 22, it had announced shipping 3 million iPads—that’s 270,000 units in less than one week.

In our previously published forecast, we projected that US consumers would buy 3.5 million tablets in 2010 and 8.4 million in 2011, and that 59 million US consumers would own a tablet by 2015. Critics comparing our numbers to Apple’s have missed some important differences: Apple’s published numbers are global (in 10 countries so far, and 9 more starting July 23), consumer and enterprise (Apple claims that 50% of Fortune 100 countries are “deploying or piloting” the iPad), and represent shipments, not necessarily sell-through. Our numbers are US-only, consumer-only, and represent final sales to consumers net of any returns — all of which help explain why our numbers will always be lower than Apple’s.

However, based on new data from Forrester’s consumer surveys, as well as Apple’s rate of “millioning,” we think our initial forecast was conservative, especially in the short term, and we plan to publish an update later this year once we have more supply-side and consumer data.

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