iPad sales in 2011: A big number, anyway

Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi takes a shot at predicting how well Apple's tablet will sell, but he's wary of offering a definitive forecast.

John Paczkowski
2 min read

Apple's iPad sold 3 million units in its first 80 days at market, setting a pace likely to put it ahead of the iPhone and all Netbooks for first full-quarter sales. So what sort of run-rate can we expect for the device in 2011?

That's difficult to say, given the limited sales data available. But Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi gave it a shot in a note to clients Thursday, and the number he came up with is astonishing, though it's quite a bit lower than the buy-side number that's being bandied about these days.

"An analysis based on extrapolating sales trajectories of [the iPhone, iPod Touch, and all Netbooks] suggests that Apple could sell a staggering 25 million iPads or more in FY 11," Sacconaghi says. "We believe that current buyside expectations for FY 11 for the iPad are now at 20-25 million+ units, largely based on such an extrapolation." [Ed. note: More like 28 million, Toni...]

Not that he's totally confident Apple will hit that number. He thinks sales will end up a bit lower, though he's wary of offering a definitive forecast. "While iPad's fast start points to the potential for 25M iPads in FY11, we note that the range of outcomes is wide and uncertain, particularly since the product use-cases and competitive offerings are very nascent. We currently estimate 18M iPads for FY 11, but underscore that we do not have high conviction in our estimate."

Sacconaghi's uneasiness here is due largely to fears that extrapolating the iPad's growth trajectory from sales to early adopters might result in an unrealistic estimate. He also worries that expanded international distribution won't juice iPad sales as much as the market hopes. Which is understandable. After all, the device is still quite new and its use-cases are still being established.