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After testing the iPad out, I’m convinced that the media, the analysts, the market, and maybe even Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) themselves are missing the most important element of the device. We keep hearing the same theories repeated over and over that describe the iPad as a niche e-reader and gaming device that might sell a couple million units in 2010 and a few more in 2011. The prevailing assumption is that nobody really needs an iPad like they need a laptop or a phone. After all, the iPad is for entertainment purposes only, right? It’s time to correct those assumptions.

The iPad is Apple’s upgraded version of a netbook, only it’s better than any netbook ever built. Netbook computers took the market by storm in 2009 by growing over 100 percent year over year to sell approximately 34 million units. The real game changing element of the iPad is that it’s the first computer ever designed to be held with one hand. This simple fact is a very big deal. Because of this, the iPad is primed to usher in a new era of mobile computing efficiency that will take the business world by storm. Nobody is talking about the iPad as a must have business device but that is exactly what it is.

Anyone who previously relied on a notepad or clipboard will adopt the iPad. Doctors will use the iPad as they move from room to room and interact with patients, teachers will use the iPad as they lecture, coaches will use it as an in game video/scouting tool...think of all the real estate agents and other salesmen who operate at point of sale. Anybody who walks around at work will want an iPad to hold directly in their hands.

On one of the Apple message boards, I read about a college professor who polled 32 of his peers and asked whether or not they planned to buy an iPad; 29 of them answered with an emphatic ‘Yes’. So many in the manufacturing industry, in the military, in sales, or in education who need to access data while working will fall in love with this Apple device. Business specific apps will be developed that allow these professionals to execute their tasks with minimal typing requirements.

For this reason, I believe the iPad will increase business efficiency in a way that has never been done and because of this, it will become Apple’s flagship product.

We’re dealing with the first device ever made specifically for the way we use the Internet. PC’s and laptops were created long before the Internet became the viable tool that it is today. Those computers were made with the intent to create content. Those who use a PC or laptop will still need them. The iPad opens up a new user category which means increased halo effect for Apple. The iPhone and the App Store opened up a window of possibilities but the screen is just too small to be of legitimate use in the business world. Apps on the iPad will have more real value than apps on the iPhone. At the $499 price tag this can most certainly become the flagship product. If Apple lowers the price watch out.

So how many will Apple sell? During the most recent holiday quarter, Apple sold over 3 million Macs, 20 million iPods, and 8.7 million iPhones. There are 75 million iPhone/iPod Touch users out there who are 90%+ satisfied. This will be the hot item of the holidays. Could we see more than 10 million units in the first full year? Yes.

Disclosure: Author holds a long position in AAPL

Source: Apple's iPad for Business Is Being Underestimated