Apple's iPad 2 will be available at its stores and a bevy of retailers starting 5 p.m. local time. The iPad 2 is already available online, but shipping times have already gone up.
Friday's festivities are just the beginning. Here are six topics to watch as the iPad 2 rolls out to the masses.
1. Supply: I checked iPad 2 shipping times early this morning and the projections were 3 to 5 days. Now shipping times are 2 to 3 weeks. The strong hint: The iPad 2 supply may be thinner than we think. Apple is well stocked from most indications and distribution is way better than the first iPad 2 launch. However, you can't rule sell-outs by the end of the weekend.
2. Lines: Now that shipping times are now weeks online rest assured that the lines at Apple stores are going to get longer. This time Thursday the concept of swelling lines seemed silly. After all, supplies were ample. Now you almost have to go to a store if you want immediate iPad 2 gratification. This long line issue is a bigger deal for cities than suburbs where Apple stores, Targets, Wal-Marts and Best Buys will have iPad 2s. 3. How fast to 1 million units? The first iPad hit 1 million units in 28 days. Given the distribution it's safe to bet that Apple will hit 1 million iPad 2s much faster. 14 days? 10 days? This weekend?
4. The competitive fallout. Apple's plan is pretty obvious. Crank out iPads, enjoy a technology and pricing advantage and grab more market share. Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said in a research note:
We believe our estimates are likely conservative for Apple’s March quarter and CY11. Our recent checks in Asia point toward the supply chain readying about 40 million iPad units this year, with production ramping up later in 2Q11 through year-end (our estimate for CY11 of 34 million units may be conservative).
That quest for tablet domination is going to force some price cuts and commoditization at Apple rivals that have to get into the market. The Android tablet base is going to go commodity quickly. It's unclear how that scrum will turn out. Amazon has been repeatedly mentioned as a viable tablet rival. Jason Perlow argued that point months ago and now Forrester is on the Amazon as tablet competitor bandwagon.
5. The carrier breakdown. One of the more interesting items about the iPad 2 is that you'll be able to select Verizon or AT&T right away. This iPad launch features 3G right away---the first generation launched Wi-Fi only. The dynamics and sales breakdown between AT&T and Verizon are worth monitoring. Also: Verizon and AT&T iPad 2 data fees revealed, which will you choose?
6. The enterprise reception. The business part of the iPad 2 story isn't front and center today, but it will be shortly. We're told that Apple is lining up integrators to push the iPad in enterprise deployments. Should Apple team up with companies like Accenture, Deloitte, Cap Gemini and services giants like IBM the iPad will be hard to beat for business.
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