iPad sales may be lower than expected, says analyst

The tablet's sales last quarter may have been hampered by supply contraints, says a J.P. Morgan analyst.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
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Apple's iPad.
Apple's iPad Mini Apple

The iPad may have missed out on a healthy chunk of sales last quarter due to limited supply, says J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz.

In an investors note out today, Moskowitz said he believes unit sales of the iPad and iPad Mini combined will be lighter than expected for the final quarter of 2012, which marks Apple's first fiscal quarter of 2013. He's now predicting unit sales of 18.4 million, down from his prior forecast of 20.1 million.

"Our research indicates that near-term supply constraints impacted iPad sell-in activity during the seasonally-stronger holiday season," the analyst said. "Supply did not improve until early December. In our view, it was a supply, not demand issue."

Moskowitz sees the iPad shortfall as a short-term "blip." But he believes Apple's explanation of the sales decline will be important, especially as the iPad gears up to take on a bigger role over the next few years.

"We think that, barring entry of another new category, the iPad likely will need to shoulder more of the incremental revenue growth as the iPhone's incremental growth starts to taper off in coming years," the analyst said.

Apple has been hurt lately by reports of a cut in iPhone 5 component orders. But like a few other analysts, Moskowitz sees this as "bear mongering" and believes Apple will likely grow along with the overall smartphone market.

Looking at unit sales, J.P Morgan sees the global smartphone market growing 30.5 percent this year. Over the same time, the iPhone is forecast to grow 28.6 percent.

Apple should be able to eke out more profits from the iPhone, particularly as carriers in Europe ramp up their LTE networks over the next 12 to 18 months.

The analyst has upped his forecast for the iPhone's gross margins in the belief that the recent order cuts may be a sign of manufacturing improvements. If margins on the iPhone 5 can return to 40 percent, Moskowitz believes the "bear mongering" is likely to ease up. He expects iPhone sales for the calendar fourth quarter to reach 47.9 million, with the iPhone 5 accounting for 25 million of those.