US retail powerhouse Target announced on Friday that it will begin selling Apple iPad tablet computers in 1,743 of its stores across the nation on October 3.
The coveted touch-screen gadgets will be priced the same as they are at Apple stores and Best Buy consumer electronics shops, but buyers shopping with Target credit cards will eventually be able to get five percent discounts.
"Target is very excited to offer the revolutionary iPad to our guests nationwide," said retail chain merchandising vice president Mark Schindele.
"We think iPad will be at the top of our guests' holiday shopping lists."
Apple channeling iPads to US retail shops comes as production has begun to catch up with demand that sizzled in the months after the gadgets launched in April.
Analyst firm Piper Jaffray said in a note to investors on Thursday that it expected Apple to sell 21 million iPads in 2011, raising its previous estimate of 14.5 million.
Jaffray cited increased iPad supply and distribution channels along with the roll-out to more countries and adoption of the device in workplaces.
"We see the iPad as the Mac for the masses," Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said, referring to Apple's historically high-end Macintosh computers.
"The iPad represents a meaningful product category for Apple as a secondary computing device for those who already have a primary computer, a primary device for those who could not previously afford a Mac, and the first Apple product that will be a success in the enterprise."
Less than a month ago, Autodesk announced that its AutoCAD software used by professionals to design everything from skyscrapers to pocket knives is reuniting with the Macintosh computer platform.
A version of AutoCAD has been tailored for Macintosh computers, and applications for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices will let people collaborate on designs using those popular Apple mobile devices.
"You can imagine it on a factory floor, on a tarmac...there are a lot of places," Autodesk chief executive told AFP while discussing iPad making its way into work places.
"Macs have already been leaking in, but I think the iPad is going to be the device that does it for Apple."
Bass told of routinely seeing architects or designers sketch out plans on iPads during meetings to quickly present ideas.
"The Windows tablets are not there yet; they are so far behind," Bass said, referring to Microsoft operating system software that is firmly entrenched in business networks.
"It is easy for IT departments to keep the Apple products out when there is a credible Windows alternative, but now there is not."
The iPad went on sale in the United States on April 3 and Apple sold more than three million in 80 days.
The iPad allows users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web or read electronic books. The cheapest iPad costs 499 dollars (US) while the top model is priced at 829 dollars.
AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said Tuesday that over half a million iPad owners were using the US telecom giant's cellular network and new tablet computers were expected to help drive growth.
AT&T is the exclusive provider of 3G cellular service for Apple's iPad, which went on sale in the United States in April. It also is the exclusive US carrier for the iPhone.
Apple, maker of the Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, surpassed Chinese oil giant PetroChina during trading on Thursday to become the world's second-largest company in terms of market value.
Apple shares hit a record 292.76 dollars during trading on Wall Street, giving the California gadget-maker a market capitalization of 266 billion dollars, more than PetroChina's 265 billion dollars.
Apple shares were trading at 292.32 dollars at the close of the stock market in New York City on Friday and slipped about 25 cents after hours.
ExxonMobile is the largest company in the world with a market capitalization -- the number of shares outstanding multiplied by the stock price -- of 310 billion dollars.
Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization in May to become the world's top technology company.
Apple stock has risen steadily over the past few years as chief executive Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1997, piloted the release of a string of hit products starting with the iPod in 2001, followed by the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad this year.
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