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iPad Air's opening sales could top last year's 3M record

Apple could sell somewhere between 2.5 million and 3.5 million iPads in the opening weekend of iPad Air sales, says Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster.

Air supply.
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The iPad Air is now on sale in just about all its launch locations, short of Hawaii where local stores have yet to open.

The consensus is that lines for the device are shorter in most places where more shoppers queued up for Apple's latest tablet a year ago.

That doesn't mean Apple won't surprise with higher sales numbers, says Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who on Friday told investors he thinks Apple will sell between 2.5 million and 3.5 million of the tablets over the weekend.

Even if Apple is on the higher end of that, it's a tough comparison to the 3 million the company sold over the same period last year. That included sales and preorders for both the fourth-generation iPad and the new iPad Mini. Making things even more complicated is the fact that both devices came just seven months after a completely different, standalone launch for the third-generation iPad.

This time around, it's just the iPad Air, while there's a wait for the second-generation model of the iPad Mini, which sports a Retina Display and costs $100 less for each of its models. Apple has not yet announced a release date for the device, short of saying it's coming later this month.

One other consideration: This is Apple's biggest launch for a tablet yet, at 42 countries -- a list that includes (like the iPhone 5C and 5S) China. Last year's iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad launch initially targeted 27 countries, while the third-generation model launched in just 10.

As for Munster's track record on recent launch day estimates, he pegged the iPhone 5S and 5C launch at between 5 million and 6 million phones. Apple later reported sales of 9 million, though did not distinguish whether those units were sold to consumers or if they included inventory sold to retailers.

Apple is expected to offer up its own number early Monday, though could stay mum considering the new Mini is not yet on sale. Despite that, the company is still selling several other older models like last year's iPad Mini for $299, and the 2011 iPad 2 for $399, enough to keep the total number a bit of a mystery.