The iPad thus far has done gangbusters for Apple, but the best may be yet to come – both in terms of sales and actual iPad features. Citing iPad component suppliers, Teconderoga Securities analyst Brian White writes that Apple may very well sell 45 million iPads in 2011. Going back to this year, component suppliers told White that they shipped over 6 million iPad parts to Apple during the third quarter of this year, and expect to ship 7 million iPad parts to Apple before the end of the current quarter.
If you do the baby math, that adds up to 13 million iPads for the second half of the fiscal year, a figure which eclipses White’s earlier estimate of 9.17 million iPads for the same time period.
The 45 million figure for 2011 is also particularly optimistic. Bullish Apple analyst Gene Munster, for example, anticipates iPad sales to come in at 21 million units in 2011. At this point, though, predicting iPad sales for 2011 is a bit premature, and it’s probably best to hold off judgment until Apple releases more precise sales figures when it releases its earnings report on October 18.
Far more fascinating than sales figures, however, are new features, and White’s sources tell him that Apple is working on a smaller 7-inch iPad that will come with Apple’s highly touted Retina Display, along with a mini-USB port, a camera, and 128 GB of storage.
These specifications, if accurate, should address the most common criticisms of the iPad–namely, its size/weight, the inability to take photos or shoot videos and the difficulty of hooking it up to external devices like printers and scanners. The presence of a Retina display and built-in camera could also point to video-calling capabilities. Apple unveiled video chat software, called FaceTime, for the iPhone in July and has an interest in extending that feature to as many of its devices as possible.
Apple typically doesn’t release new form factors for a device until the original model is already a runaway hit. But seeing as how the iPad has surpassed even Apple’s expectations, Apple may very well be ramping up production on a new model sooner than expected, and perhaps, in part, to ward off a growing field of tablet competitors from the likes of RIM, Samsung, and Dell.
And lastly, keep in mind that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors of a 7-inch iPad. Back in early August, Digitimes analyst Mingchi Kuo wrote of Apple’s plans to release a 7-inch iPad with a new ARM Cortex A9 based processor during the first quarter of 2011. Just a few weeks ago, a Chinese gossip site reported that work on an upcoming 7-inch iPad had already been completed.