How did Apple sell 3 mill “disappointing ” new iPads in 3 days?

Apple has defied the doomsayers derding the new iPad as a let-down, selling 3 million during the first three days on sale. How come?

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To put this into perspective, this is roughly three times the number of iPad 2's sold in its first weekend, according to reports here. And it compares to Motorolla's sales of 790,000 Xoom tablets in the first 3 QUARTERS on sale, according to The Guardian.

Yet the reaction to last week's launch of the new iPad was muted to say the least. Here's one typical quote from

"Apple, a company known for being innovative did nothing to surprise the audience – no dazzling electrifying features to startle the tech savvies."

And another from iPhone Hacks:

"If you already have an iPad 2 then it isn't a must-buy."

The mistake here is to focus on re-purchase and loyalty of tablets. Asking "Will people upgrade?" is the wrong question.

The iPad 3 has sold so fast because of the power of penetration. As I've posted here, the work of Byron Sharp shows the key to brand growth is not loyalty rates, but rather penetration. Bigger brands have higher rates of penetration than smaller brands. They have more people buying them, including light, medium and heavy users.

In the case of the iPad 3, and the iPhone 4s last year, there was a huge pool of non-iPad buyers who have been waiting to buy one. Nielsen reports that only 5% of US people have a tablet device. In other words, 95% of people don't have an iPad (or any other tablet). The big opportunity is getting these folk to buy one, not worrying about how many of the 5% will upgrade from iPad 2 to iPad 3.

Apple's widening of its iPad user base is boosted by the buzz that build up for each new Apple launch (starting pretty much the day after the latest launch!), like this one on MacRumours. Type in "iPad 4" to Google, and guess how many results you get. This is only one week after the launch of iPad 3 remember. 500,000? 1million? Nope, its 1.85 million.

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This incredible buzz means Apple's upcoming launches get high levels of what Byron Sharp calls "mental availability" at no marketing cost. So, when the product finally does goes on sale, the floodgates open as new buyers rush to get one.

In conclusion, the 3 million iPad 3's sold in 3 days is another illustration of the power of penetration, and widening your user base.

As for whether to upgrade from an iPad 2 to an iPad 3… I'm fighting the temptation to upgrade until the iPad 4. For now…