updated 09:00 pm EDT, Thu October 18, 2012
Indie analysts more optimistic than Wall Street
In a follow-up to a previous article about iPhone sales, Fortune's Philip Elmer-Dewitt has released results of a consensus roundup of 61 analysts both from Wall Street brokerages and independent firms that shows a wide rate of estimates for what Apple will report as its fiscal fourth-quarter (which ended on September 30) sales of the iPad. The overall average was around 18.38 million units (a median of 18.13 million), about a million more than the company sold in fiscal Q3 and a 60 percent increase from a year ago.
While the iPhone is Apple's flagship product in terms of sales -- and in this quarter even more so due to the introduction of a new model, albeit with just nine days left in the quarter -- the iPad is the company's second best-selling product line and has managed an impressive record of growth, going from just over three million sold in its introductory quarter two years to just over 17 million sold in Q3. That both Wall Street and indie analysts predict another record quarter of iPad sales ahead of the holiday buying season speaks to the enduring attraction the 9.7-inch tablet has generated, and the alleged "iPad mini" that is likely to be introduced next week may build on what has been achieved with the archetype of the "post-PC" mobile device.
The 2012 iPad is believed to be about midway through its release cycle, with a newer full-sized model expected in the spring of next year, but may get eclipsed during the holidays by the "iPad mini," particularly if rumors of a more basic, thinner and lighter but still high-quality and low-priced eight-inch model are true. If Apple does announce a smaller iPad on October 23 as expected, it will likely warn investors that full-size iPad sales may suffer during the holiday buying season.
Wall Street analysts were again, as they were with the iPhone estimates, conservative in their guesses on iPad sales. The overall Street consensus is slightly less than 17.6 million units, while the independents were more upbeat, predicting 19.23 million iPads sold. As with the iPhone estimates, the lowest and highest estimates for iPad sales came from two different analysts in the same firm, the Braeburn Group. Navin Arthanareeswaran guesses 14.8 million units (also predicted by Gabelli & Co.'s Hendi Susanto), while analyst Michael Cranston (along with indie Navin Nagrani) is looking for 23 million sold.
Apple will announce the results of their year-end and fiscal fourth quarter results in a conference all after the markets close on Thursday, October 25. As usual, the call will be available for live streaming and later playback from Apple's investor page.