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iPad mini may be in the pipeline, says analyst

In a research note, an analyst at Barclays says the firm's global research team "still sees some evidence" of a 7-inch tablet in the supply chain, but he doesn't elaborate.


Apple's long-rumored 7-inch iPad might be more than just a rumor, according to Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes.

Discussing the iPad in a research note yesterday, Reitzes said the investment firm is still holding out hope that Apple will add a 7-inch tablet to its lineup.

"Our global research team still sees some evidence of this product in the supply chain -- and we wouldn't be surprised if it wound up in the iPod Touch category if it indeed sees daylight," the analyst said. He did not provide any further details in the research note.

Given some uncertainty on the part of Barclays, an iPad mini doesn't factor into its sales forecasts for the tablet. But either way, Apple is on track to have more bang-up quarters thanks to its current iPad lineup.

Reitzes estimates that 14.2 million iPads will ship in the second quarter, a 20 percent jump over last quarter. And another 15.9 million will ship in the third quarter.

Apple will be counting on strong sales from the iPad over the next couple of quarters as the company transitions to a new iPhone, according to the analyst.

Last year, iPhone sales fell to 17 million in the quarter ended in September from 20 million the previous quarter. Potential buyers held off purchases in anticipation of the new iPhone, which made its debut in October. Several reports have pegged this October as the launch month for the next-generation iPhone.

The iPad will also continue to cannibalize PC sales, Reitzes added. As such, he sees little need for Apple to create a "hybrid" Mac with a detachable screen, believing that iPad users will increasingly dock their iPads to keyboards.

Looking at the market among tablet makers, Apple stayed on top in the first quarter with a 68 percent share. Samsung took back the No. 2 spot, while Amazon dropped to No. 3 as Kindle Fire sales dropped. The analyst expects Apple to hang on to its top market share over the near term as the Android tablet landscape becomes even more fragmented.

Apple is also expected to do well with this year's new lineup of MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs.

More rival ultrabooks will launch this year, but Apple should be able to retain its grip on the market with new Airs and a new OS.

"We are very upbeat about the prospects for new MacBook Pros and iMacs to be launched this June quarter -- and even more optimistic about a new line of MacBook Airs to likely ship in the September quarter at more attractive price points," Reitzes said. "With new software (OS X Mountain Lion) and new Airs, we believe that Apple will effectively counter any perceived 'threat' from ultrabooks."