Rumors are running rampant that Apple will release a next-generation iPad in February, likely called the iPad 3. But tech analysts still expect massive sales of Apple's iPad 2 tablet this holiday season.
Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research is estimating fourth-quarter iPad sales of 13.6 million units. Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, forecasts 13.5 million units sold in the October-December quarter, an 84% increase over the same period a year earlier. That amounts to $8.26 billion in iPad sales for the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant.
In a recent analyst note, Munster said Apple products were popular wish-list items for teens in the firm's biannual survey of young people. The iPad was the second-most-requested Apple product, behind the iPhone.
The analyst also noted that teens of average income seemed to be drawn more toward the iPad, while upper-income teens preferred a Mac product.
"In short, it appears that the iPad is appealing to more price-sensitive buyers, while the Mac has retained a premium appeal," Munster said.
Buzz over a new iPad grew last week when a Citi analyst said that Apple was preparing for a February release and that the new device would be similar to the iPad 2. But it will also include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S that will double the tablet's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner, who predicted fourth-quarter iPad sales would total 12 million to 13 million units.
Gardner reportedly said "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the next-version iPad as early as February. The first iPad hit stores in April 2010, and the iPad 2 was released this March.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons the iPad 2 maintained the 1024-by-768-pixel resolution of the first iPad.
Apple does not comment on pending products.