Apple iPad 2 sales leave something to be desired: report

Sales for Apple's iPad 2 fell short of expectations, according to a new report. Did it come too soon?

You know what we haven't seen recently? Any press releases from Cupertino touting sales figures for the iPad 2.

It's something we've discussed in the office here at ZDNet HQ, merely as speculation. After all, if the iPad 2 did well, wouldn't Apple be the first to tell us?

A new report from the not-always-reliable DigiTimes claims that Apple shipped 13 million iPad units in Q3 2011 -- an impressive figure showing 36.8 percent growth, but one that "did not meet its forecast."

The report blames a weakening global economy, though I'm not so sure that's what's at work here.

My thinking:

  • The product came too soon after the first, at nine months about a year. And the first was, of course, a landmark, segment-forming product.
  • The second version didn't have a killer feature. Most memorable thing about the iPad? The magnetic cover accessory you had to buy extra.
  • The product didn't get a lot of play. The original iPad got loads of TV time, but I don't recall there being much for the iPad 2. Could just be my fuzzy memory, however.
  • The content isn't quite there. My wife purchased an iPad because she's an early adopter; until I can find all my magazine subscriptions in Newsstand, it's merely a TV-watching accessory.

But a weakening global economy? I don't bite on that. Record-setting iPhone 4S sales this weekend demonstrate that, given enough pent-up demand, a product can sell. (Which brings me back to my first bullet, above.)

It shouldn't be a surprise that rival tablet manufacturers are having difficulty -- aside from poor products, there's not quite as much built-in demand for tablets as you might expect. Simply: the iPad alone hasn't justified the market segment to the mainstream. We're all aware of it, sure, but there's a big valley between awareness and purchase.

Smartphones may be the most lucrative for consumer electronics makers but it's clear that twice as much work will be required to get tablets into the home and enterprise. Given enough time, it will happen -- but someone needs to lay that infrastructure.

Does the DigiTimes report hold water? We'll find out after Apple's earnings call this afternoon.