Apple iPad Is a Cultish Fad: Analyst

YouGov survey shows that the Apple iPad sells well to Apple converts, but faces challenges outside the circle.
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CUPERTINO, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Apple's

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iPad sales will stay blistering hot until, well, until Apple fans have bought them all up, says a U.K.-based consumer survey shop.

If the past two months in gadget land have taught us anything, it is that the Apple iPad's debut has been huge -- more than 2 million sold at last count. But the initial impact has a somewhat distorted look to it, which should become clear as the year goes on and the number of core Apple fans dwindle, says YouGov analyst Katy Mogal, who dared dip a skeptical toe into the shark tank.

"The iPad's momentum is not sustainable. It's not clear that the general public sees the need for a third computing device, and word of mouth about the iPad is not in the top tier of its category," Mogal writes in a survey report Tuesday.

Apple's iPad

Where analysts predict iPad sales near 8 million in the first year, Mogal is less optimistic, calling for about 6.5 million.

It's a new category, which is why it's so hard to predict for forecasters. The problem is that forecasts assume the current sales pace. But there's not that large of a supply of those people to keep selling at that rate.

Mogal backs up her observations with some numbers. She says about 20% of the U.S. population owns an Apple product. And of iPad buyers, 97% already owned an Apple product.

And while the iPad scores very high on user satisfaction surveys, the recommendations from iPad owners to non-users isn't quite as high as other products, including the iPhone and

Amazon

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Kindle.

The YouGov survey shows that 69% of iPad owners recommend others buy it, compared to 79% for the Amazon Kindle and the iPhone 3GS.

Apple's iPad plays well to a loyal fan base, but several factors make this a tougher sell beyond the home crowd, says Mogal, whose firm paid for the report in an effort to provide its media and publishing industry clients some insights.

The iPad has a familiar list of shortcomings like weak computing power, an awkward size and limited functions -- too many to be considered a no-brainer consumer device.

So far, the iPad has proven that it is

no iFlop

. But just how big a success, or non-flop, it is remains to be seen.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.