Apple iPad 2 is coming to India this Friday — sooner than many had expected. Apple launched the iPad 2 in the US on March 11, expanded its availability to 25 other countries, mostly European ones, on March 25, and on Wednesday added a dozen more countries to the list, including India, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.

The basic version of iPad 2 — 16 GB, Wi-Fi only — is to be priced at Rs 29,500 and the highest configuration — 64 GB,Wi-Fi+3G — will set you back by Rs 46,900. Are those prices competitive?

When queried in early March itself, some stores had expressed the confidence that iPad 2 would be coming to India in a matter of a couple of months, which would be coming true now.

The impact of iPad 2’s expected arrival has already been telling. Gurgaon-based Olive Telecom, which has been revising the price for its Olive Pad tablet downwards periodically, and which around mid-March had a Web pricing of Rs 21,500, is currently giving out an offer price of Rs 19,990.

Bangalore-based start-up Notion Ink, which has managed to keep a fan following for its Adam tablet, despite some shipping woes, has the entry-level LCD Wi-Fi model priced at Rs 21,266, inclusive of all shipping charges and even the top-end PixelQi Wi-fi + 3G model comes for Rs 29,999. As a pre-run to taking the next batch of orders, the company is inviting potential buyers with this message, “If you are interested in being included in the next round of orders, please leave your e-mail address…”

It would be premature to make a guess at the iPad 2 pricing, but all this market activity indicates that the players are anticipating Apple to come up with a rather aggressive pricing for the India market. And as we had discussed in this column before, any pricing in the vicinity of 30,000 would make iPad 2 a compelling proposition for tablet buyers in India.

The tablet market already has a good number of players, which include Dell and Samsung, among others. And to add to the rush, Sony has also announced it would be coming out with its tablet offerings this year. It will be interesting to see how quickly it brings the offerings to India.

The tablets market is still at an early stage of development in India, but the interest in the category seems to be rising fast and the players have started to look at the market seriously. It is a little surprising that not many telecom service providers have come up with data plans suited for tablet-based Internet access. State-run telco BSNL, however, has published both prepaid and postpaid plans for iPad and for postpaid users the unlimited usage plan is Rs 999.

The heighted interest of tablet makers in the Indian market is partly due to the ongoing rollouts of 3G in the country. There is an expectation that wide-scale availability of mobile broadband access will serve as a catalyst for the adoption and growth of tablets. Data plans designed to suit the needs of tablet users will give a further fillip to the market.

(As published in Deccan Chronicle on April 28, header changed, text added.)

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