Mixed response marks iPad launch in Canada

Much of the initial gusto that greeted the Canadian launch of the iPad Friday subsided as the day wore on.

There were early reports of fans camping out at mall entrances across the country as early as Thursday night, and stores running out of stock.

However, by noon on Friday queues pretty much thinned out and patrons could casually walk through security, and play with any one of the dozens of iPad floor models on display.

Friday’s events mimicked other Apple Computer Inc. launches, according to Gary Ng, a self-confessed Apple product fan from Vancouver.

“Apple enthusiasts flocked to stores to be part of the event and just connect with other like-minded fans — and to snap up the iPad of course.”

Ng writes about the iPad in his blog IpadinCanada.ca, which he started shortly after the U.S. launch of the device. In a short time, the site, which features the latest iPad news, tips and reviews, began getting around 200,000 page views per month.

His three-year old blog on the iPhone — IPhoneinCanada.ca — receives around 850,000 page views.

Like many Canadian Apple fans, Ng got his iPad when the device launched in the U.S. He was lucky enough to have a friend who was in the States at that time. Ng’s friend bought the Apple tablet device for him.

Canadian sales numbers for the iPad’s launch day are not available yet.

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In the U.S., Apple sold around 300,000 iPad units on the first day of its launch there and around 1 million over the next 30 days.

In Canada electronics retailers Future Shop and Best Buy, select authorized Apple resellers, and the Apple Store – all sell the device. The iPad was supposed to go on sale in Canada in April, but the U.S. demand after the April 3 launch there depleted supply of the units.

A pricey product

The iPad is undoubtedly a pricey device, especially if you want a higher calibre model and more access options.

For instance, the WiFi-only version costs $549 (16GB), $649 (32GB) and $749 (64GB).

For a device that can be used on both WiFi and 3G networks, you would need to fork out $679 (16GB), $779 (32GB) and $879 (64 GB). Both Rogers Communications and Bell Canada support the device.

Waning appeal?

The Canadian impact has likely been blunted to some extent because many Canucks already crossed the border over the past month and brought iPads home from American stores,” according to Carmi Levy independent technology analyst.

There’s no doubt Apple Canada will sell as many iPads as it can stock, but epic overnight lineups are losing their appeal, he said. “At some point, it becomes a little ridiculous to skip work, school and life to be the first to buy a given product.”  

Levy said Canadians are perhaps “a bit more rational and patient in this regard” than their neighbours to the south.  

In Toronto, more than 300 people lined up outside the Apple Store at the Toronto Eaton Centre on Friday morning. Minutes before the mall opened, some 50 screaming and clapping Apple Store employees burst forth from a hallway beside the store and began high-fiving lined up customers, as another employee shot footage of the scene.

Salespeople at the Fairview Mall said customers began arriving at the Apple Store as early as 6 a.m.

Apple is tight-lipped about early sales numbers in Canada.  However, Apple Store personnel at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto said told ITBusiness.ca that lines thinned out by 12 noon.

“There’ aren’t anymore lineups, but we ran out of the 16GB model hours ago and we now only have the 32GB,” a salesperson said.

At the Fairview Mall Apple Store, this reporter just walked pass two security guards standing beside the wide open store entrance. Inside, the room was packed with customers and more than the usual number of attendants. Several tables were lined with iPads being tested by patrons, some under the guidance of salespeople.

By this time, an iPad purchase was as hassle free as buying a pack of chewing gum. Andrew Horsburg, a pilot from Vancouver, B.C., took less than one minute to pick out an iPad and pay for it with his bankcard on a salesperson’s handheld card reader.

“I actually decided on buying it just today,” Horsburg said. He had been reading all the reviews and checking out all the applications for the iPad months before the launch.

He said he wanted to be sure, as he would be forking out around $800 for his device.  “I intend to use it a lot. I like the media, games, and video. I like the newspaper apps,” he said.

Outside Apple Store, Andi Dan, a front desk clerk at a Best Western Hotel, was strolling along with an unboxed iPad in one hand and an HTC phone in the other.

Dan said he didn’t have to line up at all. “I arrived around noon and was the third person to get the iPad that time. There was no mess.”

He said there were no particular reasons why he bought the iPad: “It’s new technology that I wanted to have.”

“I intend to use it everyday. I’ll carry in my bag and in my car. I’ll use it for work and play,” Dan admitted, though, that he wasn’t so sure how he could use his iPad for work purposes just yet.

The iPad goes to work

A Canadian technology analyst said the iPad is bound to place additional pressure on IT administrators when the device enters the business space.

“The iPad is likely going to leak into the business space just as the iPhone did,” said Roberta Fox, senior partner at Newmarket, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting.

Just as executives began using iPhones rather that BlackBerries because of the “wow factor”, Fox, sees a lot of people taking iPads to work.

“In some instance, the iPad can easily displace netbooks and laptops,” she said.

For instance, mobile workers or travelling executives who don’t anticipate a heavy workload could be easily enticed to carry their iPads for the day rather than a full sized laptop or a netbook.

“The iPad can be handy if you just want to do some quick editing, reviewing of e-mails and documents. And then you can browse through the media apps, read an e-book in your free time.”

This is very likely to create similar security headaches for IT administrators who cope with the iPhone’s entry into the corporate network.

“IT will have to figure out how to secure iPad transmissions and support the device.”

Levy sees a bright future for the iPad in the business space. It can be transformative in terms of its ability to facilitate collaboration during meetings, he said.

He said the iPad’s form factor lends itself to round-table involvement in a far more compelling way than the typical laptop.

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