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Apple channel partners have told Channel Insider that their customers are plenty interested in Apple’s iPad, asking to buy the $500-plus tablet-sized device through the channel.

Certainly Apple’s iPhone has been making more inroads into business strongholds.

But a new report from market research company NDP Group shows consumers who are most aware of the iPad’s release April 3 are owners of existing Apple products such as iPod, Mac and iPhone (82 percent); consumers with $100,000 or higher income (80 percent); and 18- to 34-year-olds (78 percent).

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Those demographic groups are also the ones with the most interest in buying an iPad, the organization reports.

Only 18 percent of all consumers surveyed said they want to own an iPad. But for those 18- to 34-year-olds, 27 percent wanted one, and 24 percent of existing Apple product owners were extremely or very interested in owning one. Apple owners said they were interested because they like the Apple brand, something they also associated with a multitouch screen. The multitouch screen was the top draw for the 18- to 34-year-olds.

“The most interested potential iPad customers see it primarily as a music device, or for its Internet access capabilities,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement. “Considering what people are planning to use the iPad for, it’s not hard to understand why people who have these capabilities on other devices, such as the iPod Touch or a notebook/netbook, may not want to spend $500 or more on a similar device.  

“This points to the need for Apple to close the content deals that focus the iPad on what is likely to be its best long-range value proposition around high-quality media consumption,” he added.

The price, which some may consider high, may also hurt the tablet overall, the market research group said.

Specifically, among the 18- to 24-year-old demographic, 57 percent said the price is the No. 1 reason they aren’t ready to buy. That represents 25 percent more than the overall percentage of non-interested buyers, NDP Group reports.

Among those who already own Apple devices, 43 percent believe that the pricing is too high.  

Another issue? They see the iPad as a notebook or netbook replacement. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 51 percent said they’d rather use a notebook or netbook instead; 44 percent of current Apple owners said that too.

NDP Group reports that even those who expressed the most interest in the iPad aren’t saying they plan to rush out and buy one anytime soon, which is the same response from consumers in general.

When asked what the likelihood of purchasing an iPad in the next six months was, 9 percent of all consumers surveyed said they were “extremely or very likely” to do so, as did 10 percent of 18- to 34-years-olds and 9 percent of existing Apple device owners, according to the report. Worse still for Apple, there was a greater number of consumers who were not very likely or not likely at all to purchase an iPad in the next six months.  

A full 66 percent of all consumers surveyed and of 18- to 34-year-olds don’t foresee an iPad purchase in their future, and 60 percent of Apple owners felt the same way, NDP Group said.