Apple, the world's most valuable technology company, could double the number of iPads sold over the next year despite competition from new entrants, analysts say.
Apple could sell as many as 65.4 million iPads in the fiscal year that started Sept. 25, more than double the 32.4 million sold in the record-breaking FY 2011, estimates Jefferies analyst Peter Misek.
Misek and analysts at Gartner, Forrester and HIS iSuppli all suggest various reasons: the market for tablets is exploding, Apple has wielded its $81.5 billion cash pile to secure adequate supplies and new products, like the iPad3, are likely to come early next year.
Meanwhile, rivals including Samsung Electronics, Sony, Lenovo Group and Amazon will all score with new tablets, trimming Apple's market share from the current 67 to 75 percent range but keeping prospects tantalizing for all.
The 2011 market for tablets is expected to quadruple to 60 million units, IHS iSuppli estimates, more than doubling next year to at least 130 million units and as many as 275 million by 2015.
Slowing PC and laptop sales by the U.S. giants Hewlett-Packard and Dell indicate consumers and enterprises are more excited about tablets.
For Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., the benefit is that it will maintain a strong consumer preference, especially when the iPad 3 is introduced next year, keeping the older iPad2 in production but at a lower price than the current $499. That would allow for it to battle Amazon, with its Kindle Fire, which is not as fully functioned as an iPad2, but which is expected to sell as many as five million units this quarter.
Seattle-based Amazon only started shipping the $199 Kindle Fires 13 days ago and has not released sales figures. Instead, the electronics retailer said it had sold four times as many Kindle devices on Nov. 25 as on 2010's so-called Black Friday.
New tablets from Sony and Lenovo have not seen much advertising in the U.S. so far, unlike Samsung Electronics's Galaxy Tab S and Barnes & Noble's Nook, which is also not a full-function tablet.
Jefferies' Misek, who just visited electronics factories in Japan, said he believes Apple will ship 14 million iPads this quarter, down about 17 percent from an earlier estimate. The trim is based on concern about slower European sales as well as competition from Kindle Fire.
Still the current-quarter estimate would mean Apple would ship 25 percent more iPad2 this quarter than last.
Apple shares, trading midday Monday around $374.89, up 3 percent, have not recovered from their fall Oct. 19 after the slight miss in fourth-quarter earnings. They have fallen 11 percent since then. The company's market capitalization is $348.4 billion.