March 14, 2011, 3:40 PM

500,000 more reasons for iPad apps

Apple unveiled its new iPad 2 Friday and sold as many as 500,000 units over the weekend, says Piper Jaffray & Co.

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Apple Inc.’s iPad is king of the tablet PC hill, selling 15 million units between April and December 2010. Based on weekend sales it looks like it’s going to retain its throne for the foreseeable future.

The much-anticipated iPad 2 went on sale Friday, one month shy of a year since the iPad 1 made its debut. The second iteration of the mega-popular tablet sold between 400,000 and 500,000 units during the weekend, most on the first day, according to research and investment firm Piper Jaffray & Co. The firm called numerous stores where the iPad 2 was being sold—everywhere from Apple to Best Buy Co. to Target Corp. to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—and found every store was already out of stock.

Piper Jaffray also conducted on-the-spot research at stores in New York and Minneapolis on Friday and discovered 70% of 236 consumers waiting in line for the iPad 2 were first-time buyers; 30% were upgrading from the iPad 1. That indicates a great many more iPads in the hands of new users who will be browsing the web on their devices and using iPad apps.

“Strong demand in stores and online suggests that our estimate of 5.5 million iPads in the March quarter is likely conservative,” write Gene Munster, senior research analyst, and Andrew H. Murphy, research analyst, in a research note.

The iPad 2 is lighter, thinner and faster than its predecessor. And it contains cameras on the front and back for taking pictures and video and for video chats. The price for the basic model is $499, below the prices of the small but growing number of competitors, which gives Apple an edge.

Retailers of varying sizes and selling a wide range of products have reported to Internet Retailer in the last six months that they have been surprised by the already high amount of traffic coming to their e-commerce sites from iPads. And just last week private sale merchant Gilt Groupe reported that 4% of its total sales now come from iPad users.

Add this all up and its means millions more iPad users with a unique web and app experience in their hands and the expectation that sites and apps will be tailored to their needs and provide beautiful, glitch-free experiences.

“Clearly the iPad platform is expanding, and to be relevant in the tablet market any web site needs to work well on the iPad—or even better, have an app,” Munster tells Internet Retailer.

Apple is No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Gilt Groupe is No. 140.

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