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Apple iPhone, iPad sales higher than expected, says analyst

Looking for sales to beat expectations, J.P. Morgan has increased its forecast for both the iPhone and iPad for the first quarter of the year.


Apple is off to another gangbuster year, if the latest projections from J.P. Morgan are on target.

In a research note out today, the financial firm boosted its prediction for first-quarter iPhone sales to 31.1 million, from 28.1 million previously. iPad sales are now expected to reach 13.8 million, a hefty jump from the 10.1 million forecast earlier.

The bump in the first-quarter forecast will ripple forward to the rest of the year. For calendar 2012, Moskowitz is looking at iPhone sales of 138.2 million, up from the prior estimate of 128.7 million. And iPad sales could hit 69.6 million, compared with an earlier forecast of 58.6 million.

This year's likely new iPhone will, of course, provide a major piece of the pie.

"Looking ahead, our assumption is that a new iPhone 5 with a thinner body and LTE capability will be launched in [the second half of 2012], which should sustain the iPhone's above-peer growth trajectory," Moskowitz said.

Apple is likely to refresh its MacBook lineup in the next three months, says Moskowitz, a safe bet since Apple unveiled new-model MacBooks in April 2011. However, the surge in ultrabooks from rival vendors makes 2012 a bit different than 2011.

Moskowitz believes Apple's MacBook Air refresh needs to attract customers by offering lower prices and improvements in key features. Otherwise, the competition stands to gain more of an edge with lower-priced offerings.

But it's the enterprise market that offers the greatest untapped growth for Apple. The company has never placed a big focus on the business world, preferring instead to concentrate on the individual consumer. Yet enterprises account for around 40 percent of all global PC sales.

Moskowitz believes Apple could tap into that market if Microsoft offers its popular Office suite for the iPad, something that has been long rumored but never confirmed.

"With Microsoft Office, we think that tablets could evolve into productivity devices instead of just content-driven experiences, and thereby open up the 40 percent of global PCs to the tablet market for substitution, which we think would favor Apple given the absence of compelling tablet alternatives so far."