Apple's hot-selling iPad tablet computer will be sold by Wal-Mart, starting with online sales. No discounts will be offered as Wal-Mart moves to have the iPad on the shelves of 2,300 stores by the end of the year. The iPad is already available from Target, Amazon.com and Best Buy, and the Wal-Mart deal may stave off Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
The nation's top-selling electronic gadget will be available from America's top retailer, starting Friday. Wal-Mart will sell Apple's iPad online, with orders picked up at stores, and will have the product on the shelves of 2,300 stores by year's end.
But despite the megaseller's ability to offer its inventory at a discount, early reports say the price won't undercut Apple's sales through its stores and web site. The iPad is also available at Target, where it recently went on sale; at Amazon.com; and at Best Buy, where it has been available since its launch in April. Target offers a five percent discount on the tablet computer for buyers using the chain's credit card.
Leg Up on Rivals
The retail push will help Apple maintain its edge in the tablet field it broke open as competitors rush a slew of new devices to the market. Many of the rival devices use Google 's Android mobile operating system.
"With Walmart.com adding Apple iPad to its e-commerce offering immediately and Wal-Mart retailers stocking devices in the coming weeks, Apple is working furiously to make its media tablet product available in advance of holiday 2010 purchasing for U.S. consumers," said ABI Research mobile-devices analyst Jeff Orr, who noted that the device sells for $499 for the basic Wi-Fi model and rises to $829 for the version with the most memory, 64GB, and both Wi-Fi and 3G. At that price, Wal-Mart's best advantage is its ubiquity at the nation's busiest shopping centers.
"In the first 90 days of shipments, the average selling price of iPad exceeded $650, a clear luxury item for most consumers worldwide," Orr said. "With Wal-Mart not gaining any special pricing to attract consumers, the bet has to be on mere presence in more places."
That strategy, he said, could backfire for Apple if it brings people into stores only to have them switch to cheaper items, especially if supply is tight.
"Samsung recently announced distribution agreements with the four largest mobile-network operators in the U.S. to sell the company's Galaxy Tab media tablet before the end of the year; a feat no handset, PC OEM, or CE-device vendor has pulled off before," said Orr.
Sales Figures Awaited
He also noted that Apple next week will announce revenue and shipment volumes for its latest financial quarter. "While it was quick to announce shipments of the first and third million iPad units, the company has remained quiet since July about its progress," Orr said. That could mean sales have slowed, or that Apple is building anticipation for a big announcement to impress investors.Bolstering the latter theory was a note this week from Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan saying that the iPad is likely to be the highest-selling electronics device in history, "a runaway success of unprecedented proportion" with an estimated 8.5 million sold so far.