The Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad is poised to be one of the most popular gift items of this holiday season. Compete has been closely monitoring shopper interest in the iPad since its announcement earlier this year, when a tremendous surge of online interest presaged the device’s staggering second-quarter and third-quarter product sales.
Using Compete’s Device Demand Measurement data, we can see that prelaunch interest in the iPad at Apple.com trailed initial interest in the third-generation iPhone 3GS, and that just a month after its announcement, online interest in the iPad fell to below 300,000 unique visitors a week. But the week the iPad was actually available for purchase (on April 3rd, nine weeks after announcement), online interest in the tablet was nothing short of exceptional: nearly 3 million consumers researched the iPad the week of its launch, making it one of the most researched consumer electronic products of the year, and, at the time, Apple’s most researched product ever.
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Since then, however, the tablet landscape has changed dramatically. Consumers can now choose from new tablet products from Dell (DELL), RIM (RIMM) and most significantly Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), with the Galaxy S Tab. And Apple’s retail and carrier partner strategy has changed dramatically: in October, Apple announced that the iPad would be available for purchase through Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), as the first Apple product carried by the country’s largest wireless service provider. So as holiday shopping ramps up, we wondered if the addition of new competitive products and new channels make the proverbial pie bigger, or are tablet manufacturers and retailers fighting for the same pool of potential customers?
As we can see below, online shopper interest in the iPad is on the rise again, but still well below the high-water mark of 3 million unique visitors achieved the week of product availability. More importantly for Apple, interest in the Samsung Galaxy S Tab at Samsung.com and interest in the iPad at Verizon Wireless.com is additive to interest in the iPad at Apple.com. Put another way, these new products and channels are expanding the pool of potential table shoppers, rather than stealing shopper interest away from the iPad on Apple.com.
It is not surprising that increasing interest in the Galaxy S Tab has been accompanied by increased iPad interest. Since mid-October the Tab has been the object of a number of product reviews – many of which directly compare the product to the iPad – and many consumers are wisely researching both products before buying.
What is more surprising is the role Verizon Wireless has had on iPad online shopper interest. Unlike the long-awaited and heavily anticipated “Verizon iPhone,” Verizon Wireless does not currently provide integrated network connectivity for the iPad. The only product available through Verizon Wireless is the Wi-Fi version of the iPad, which is sold as a bundle with a MiFi mobile hotspot router. Nonetheless, the iPad product information page at Verizon Wireless.com has received nearly 120,000 unique visitors a week, on average, and traffic is trending upward. We believe that – in the eyes of many consumers – this iPad/MiFi bundle is viewed as an entirely new product, and therefore subject to the same comparison shopping behavior as the Galaxy S Tab, or any other competitive tablet.
So while tablet consumers have many more tablet product and channel choices than before, the consumers continue to flock to Apple.com and iPad continues to be the most researched product of its kind., It looks like it will be yet another jolly holiday in Cupertino this year.