While the reports of the iPad meeting with incredible advance orders indicate a stellar public reception, Apple (AAPL
) would do well to focus on one market that could be a substantial boon to wide public acceptance: the realtor market. If there was one device that is perfectly suited to the on the go lifestyle of a realtor, the iPad is it.
This past week, I contracted to purchase a house and my realtor, who is one of the best in this area, used paper, a blackberry and his nav system to take me from house to house. All could have been done much better on the iPad. The realtors use the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to keep track of current house listings for customers to visit. In my area they use the Metropolitan Regional Information Service for this information. All of this information is housed in websites accessible to agents and brokers. More than the listing itself the iPad comes in handy to show pictures of the houses before heading out, checking on schools, neighborhood values and a myriad of other information. Typically this is done on the go as realtors take customers from house to house. The display and long battery life of the Ipad and its relatively cheap 3G data plan make it ideal for such mobile information requirements.
Apple would do well to provide special consideration for this market, either in the form of a small discount or perhaps a realtor app. The National Association of Realtors states on their website that there are 1,068,746 realtor members as of Feb. 28, 2010. Each of those realtors is typically an independent contractor responsible for their own equipment, including mobile technology. An iPad is an allowable deduction to the realtors assuming business usage, so in essence its cost is reduced by their marginal tax rate making it a bargain. More importantly for Apple, realtors are around the public each and every day as people list and buy their homes. So in essence the realtor becomes a living advertisement to the extraordinary value of the device. If each realtor interacts with just 5 members of the public each month, that’s roughly 60 million people a year seeing the first-hand value of the iPad.
As Microsoft (MSFT) and PC manufacturers try to catch up in the race for tablet customers, Apple could do much to make that first mover gap impossible to cross by courting the right customer segments. In doing so Apple should look at the million strong realtor network to advance that market lead to insurmountable levels. I know one realtor who is now looking to purchase an iPad as soon as possible.
Disclosure: Long Apple