It’s been just a matter of weeks since Steve Jobs announced the impending release of the new Apple (AAPL) iPad tablet.
A ChangeWave survey of 3,171 consumers — conducted in the aftermath of that Apple announcement (Feb 1-10) — shows a huge wave of pre-launch demand for the iPad and offers key evidence that the Apple tablet will have a major impact on the e-Reader, laptop and home entertainment markets.
Moreover, the survey shows Amazon (AMZN) and its e-Reader competitors are poised to take a big hit early on from the iPad’s entry into their market.
The survey is a follow-up to a January ChangeWave survey that was conducted before the Steve Jobs announcement and which also found that an Apple tablet device would elicit a major wave of demand among consumers.
Bigger Than the iPhone?
Consumer respondents were presented a brief description of key features of the new Apple iPad tablet (scheduled for March 2010 release) and then asked how likely they were to buy one when it becomes available.
A total of 4% said they are Very Likely to buy the Apple iPad and 9% said Somewhat Likely.
Importantly, the percentage saying Very Likely is the same as in a January ChangeWave survey prior to Apple’s actual announcement. And although the percentage saying Somewhat Likely has declined since the previous survey  (from 14% to 9% currently) that’s likely due to the fact that the current survey is the first in which the exact nature of the device is known.
In other words, back in January when virtually no one was yet certain the device was actually real, there were some consumers who thought they might purchase it who subsequently lost interest when the iPad’s exact specifications became known. But this is to be expected — and the percentages who do want to purchase the iPad in the latest survey remain extremely high and represent a tremendous pre-launch demand for the new product.
For comparative purposes, here is how the latest iPad findings compare to an April 2007 ChangeWave survey on the original Apple iPhone, taken just weeks before its release.
Simply put, the current pre-launch demand for the new iPad is greater than the pre-launch demand at a similar point in time for the original iPhone.
Shaking Up the e-Reader Market
We took a close-up look at the budding e-Reader market and found the iPad is all but certain to have a transformational impact on it going forward. While a handful of e-Reader manufacturers — most prominently Amazon — clearly have a major head start, the survey findings show the iPad is poised to profoundly shake up this market.
Among consumers who already own an eBook Reader, the Amazon Kindle (68%) towers over its closest rival, the Sony Reader (10%). But to gauge the potential impact of the iPad on this market, we asked eBook Reader owners whether they would have purchased their current e-Reader if the Apple iPad had also been available.
Now think back to when you purchased your eBook Reader. If the Apple iPad tablet had been available at that time, which eBook Reader do you think you would have purchased — your current eBook Reader or the Apple iPad tablet?
While nearly half (45%) of current eBook Reader owners say they would have still bought their same device, better than one-in-four (27%) report they’d have bought the Apple iPad if it had been available at the time of purchase.
e-Readers Future Market Share
But it’s when we asked consumers about their planned eBook Reader purchases over the next 90 days that the full extent of the Apple iPad’s impact on this marketplace becomes apparent.
The survey shows the Apple iPad is now poised to capture an astonishing 40% of the e-Reader market going forward in the first 90 days after its launch.
The Amazon Kindle ranks second in terms of future purchase share with 28%. Barnes and Noble Nook (6%) and Sony Reader (1%) are far back in third and fourth place respectively.
In short, while the iPad launch is likely to strengthen overall e-Reader demand, the survey suggests Amazon and its competitors could well find themselves relegated to playing catch-up within just a few quarters if they don’t preemptively move quickly to upgrade their own e-Readers.
In a further warning sign, the survey shows the wave of Apple iPad demand is likely to continue strengthening throughout the first six months after its release.
Which Features Do Buyers Want to Use Most?
In his announcement, Steve Jobs described multiple ways consumers could use their iPads.
We asked likely buyers which features they were most interested in using:
From the list of possible uses, please tell us which ones you’re most interested in using on the iPad. (Check No More Than Three)
Topping the list –- better than two-thirds (68%) say they’re most interested in using the iPad for surfing the Internet.
Checking email (44%), reading eBooks (37%), reading magazines, newspapers and periodicals (28%), and watching video (24%) are additional key ways that consumers are most interested in using the iPad.
But All May Not Be Rosy for Apple
There is at least one potential downside for Apple to its upcoming iPad launch.
To what degree might the iPad negatively impact sales of other Apple products? To find out, we asked respondents whether they would now be purchasing the iPad instead of a different Apple product that they had previously been considering.
The goal here was to gauge the degree to which the iPad may cannibalize sales of other Apple products.
All told, one-in-four planned iPad buyers say they’ve put one or more of Apple’s other products on hold because they plan on getting an iPad — a clear signal Apple will experience at least some loss of sales among its other product lines due to the iPad launch.
Nonetheless, when you consider the huge wave of pre-launch demand for the new tablet, the cannibalization concern appears to be a minor and quite manageable issue for Apple.
Of course, Apple’s success with the iPad is ultimately dependent on the device being able to turn on and perform up to the expectations of its new owners. Based on Apple’s past history, many, if not most, buyers are expecting it to successfully mass produce and deliver the tablet of their dreams.
We’ll soon be finding out. A ChangeWave survey of new iPad owners is set for early spring.