Speculation has run rampant as to how many people will grab an iPad following its launch Saturday. But at least one market researcher is predicting huge sales for the tablet this year and beyond.
Worldwide sales of Apple's new device are expected to reach 7.1 million units this year, according to a preliminary forecast released Friday by iSuppli. Sales will double to 14.4 million units next year and triple to 20.1 million in 2012, the research firm predicts.
Though the iPad initially generated a fair amount of negative reaction, several recent reviews in the press have been much more favorable. The tablet's design, applications, and multitouch interface will compensate for any perceived limitations and will lead to huge demand by early adopters this year, iSuppli predicts.
Growth will continue to soar in 2011 and 2012 as more iPad apps hit the market, and as Apple improves the tablet's functionality and lowers its price, said iSuppli. In fact, the company believes its sales forecast could prove conservative if Apple enhances certain features sooner than expected and reconsiders its lack of support for Flash.
"2010 sales could potentially climb much higher than the 7 million figure, and that first year success--combined with expected ongoing innovation--will help to keep Apple at the forefront of the tablet market for several years," Rhoda Alexander, iSuppli's director of monitor research, said in a statement. "Key to continuing success will be how quickly Apple responds to issues as they arise and whether the company can align suppliers to meet demand needs."
Could Apple's lack of support for Adobe Systems' Flash affect sales of the iPad? iSuppli believes it could be the case.
"This is because one of the key use cases of the device, as marketed by Apple, relates to Web browsing or consumption of online content," Francis Sideco, iSuppli's principal analyst for wireless communications, said in a statement. "Absent Flash, iPad users will not be able to enjoy Flash-driven content, which is used in a considerable amount of Web sites as well as Web-based games and videos."
Still, Apple has a history of beating the odds and proving its critics wrong as it did with the iPhone, notes iSuppli, and that may hold true for the lack of Flash on the iPad. Unless sales are heavily impacted, Apple is likely to continue barring Flash from its universe.
Apple will also need to watch over its shoulder for competition. Already other vendors are getting ready to unveil their own tablets, which could offer stronger features than the early iPads, notes iSuppli. But as the first company to hit the market with a low-cost tablet, iSuppli said, Apple will enjoy a strong advantage for now.