Despite some reports claiming that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not attract enough customers at its retail stores during the iPad Air's launch last week compared to a year ago, an analyst has predicted that the company may still surprise industry watchers with higher sales figures of its fifth-generation iPad.

According to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, Apple could sell between 2.5 million and 3.5 million iPad Air units over the first weekend, outperforming the 3 million mark the company reached over the same period in 2012. It’s worth noting here that last year’s sales number also included sales and pre-orders for the iPad 4 and the first-generation iPad mini, as both devices were launched only seven months after the third-generation iPad hit the market, CNET reported.

According to the report, this year’s iPad launch is considered to be Apple’s biggest tablet launch ever as it made the device available in 42 countries, including China. In 2012, the iPad 4 and iPad mini were initially launched in 27 countries, while the iPad 3 was primarily released in only 10 countries.

While the iPad Air is currently available on the market, customers are still waiting for the second-generation version of the iPad mini with a high-resolution Retina display. Although Apple has not yet announced a release date for the new tablet, rumors suggest that the device could be made available on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 22. Apple said at the device’s unveiling last month that it would arrive “later in November.”

Although Apple is expected to reveal the iPad Air’s opening weekend sales numbers on Monday, the company may decide to stay mum given that the new Retina iPad mini has not hit store shelves yet.

Meanwhile, the new iPad Air has impressed early reviewers with its thinner, lighter form factor and faster processing speed. Apple has also slashed the iPad’s weight by 28 percent, and made it 20 percent thinner and 9 percent narrower than its predecessor. The device is more comfortable to hold than the iPad 4, reviewers say, while its A7 chip gives a major boost to iOS apps such as Apple's own iLife and iWork.

A new report from the International Data Corporation showed that Apple’s share in the worldwide tablet market dropped 11 percent to 29.6 percent in the third quarter of 2013 from 40.2 percent during the same period last year.

However, the company is expected to regain its momentum with “robust shipment growth during the fourth quarter” of this year, thanks to both the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display.