Apple is moving quickly to broaden its distribution channel for its hot-selling iPad, inking a deal to make the tablet computer available at Target stores starting October 3. The retailer announced Friday that it plans to carry all six versions of the iPad starting with the 16GB Wi-Fi model priced at $499.99, as well as the 32GB, 64GB Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G models.
A company spokesperson told InternetNews.com that all 1,743 Target locations across the U.S. are expected to carry the iPad in the store's electronics department. Bargain hunters might be motivated to wait a few more weeks to mid-October when Target plans to offer shoppers who use a Target credit card a 5 percent discount on all their purchases.
The news comes at a time when a number of computer makers are planning to release new tablets. Meanwhile, the iPad appears to be gaining enterprise adoption even quicker than the company's iPhone. In the case of the iPhone, adoption was driven largely by employee and executive demand, citing a preference for Apple's sleek touchscreen smartphone over entrenched devices like RIM's BlackBerry.
"Every CIO I meet is carrying an iPad these days," David Girouard, president of Google's Enterprise division, said earlier this year, calling the iPad "the ultimate statement of the consumerization of IT to date."
Analyst Jack Gold notes that it's hardly a new trend. "It started with employees bringing the first PCs into the office to get work done more efficiently. People forget the first BlackBerrys were purchased by individuals and eventually IT came around supported them," Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.
Gold said Apple's Target deal is a smart move. "It's all about distribution. Not everyone goes to an Apple Store or buys off the Web," he said. The iPad is also already available at Best Buy.
Competitors include Dell's new Android-based Streak tablet and HP, which has announced plans to offer two models, a tablet based on Palm's webOS for consumers and another model for enterprise users based on Windows 7. Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) also plans to release its Cius tablet early next year designed for enterprise collaboration.
Gold said the expanded distribution to Target stores will mean more people will be exposed to what they can and can't do with a tablet device.
"That's going to lead to more pressure on IT shops to support the iPad or other tablets. It's already happening," he said.