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Relax--iPad sales are doing just fine

Apple delivered some modest price cuts to the iPad and drove sales on Black Friday. The move should keep worrywart analysts at bay for a bit.

Remember all those recent worries about how many iPads Apple would sell in the December quarter? Black Friday, free shipping and small price cuts may have allayed the worrywarts.

Worries about iPad sales were beginning to pile up as Amazon launched its Kindle Fire. The biggest concern was that Apple was overdue for an iPad price cut.

However, some field work from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster may silence those fretting about iPad sales. Munster, who estimates Apple will sell 13.5 million units in the December quarter, concluded that the company's flagship stores were selling 68 percent more iPads per hour than a year ago. Specifically, Apple sold 14.8 iPads per hour at its retail stores. A year ago, Apple sold 8.8 iPads per hour on Black Friday.

Also: Apple's iPad sales: Time for 'pricing stimulus'? | Great Debate: Are $200 tablets a game changer? | Great Debate: Kindle Fire or iPad: Which one should you buy?

Munster said:

Apple discounted iPads 8%-9% for Black Friday in 2011, vs. 6%-8% in 2010 which likely drove the acceleration in iPad sales that we observed during our 8 hours of Apple retail store checks on Black Friday. Our checks are consistent with comScore data, which indicated that Apple's online store saw double-digit y/y growth in traffic, and ShopperTrak, which saw overall Black Fri. retail sales up 6.6% y/y (the largest increase since 2007). We believe Apple retail stores outpaced overall retail sales due primarily to rare discounts on the iPad 2.

Mac sales also appear on track to ship 5.2 million units in the December quarter.

Other analysts were also upbeat about Apple's iPad sales. Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland said:

Apple store traffic was extremely robust with positive checks at other channels. On Black Friday and over the weekend, we surveyed five Apple Store locations. On Friday, all five stores experienced wall-to-wall traffic, driven by ~10% price discounts on iPads, iPods, and Macs. On Saturday and Sunday, traffic remained steady. In addition, checks at Best Buy, AT&T, and other channels indicated solid demand for Apple's products.

We are more comfortable with iPad expectations despite recent supply chain chatter as Apple starts the transition to the iPad 3. With $41-61 iPad discounts, we saw a steady flow of iPad sales at Apple stores and other locations. While there was some concern with reduced orders for iPad 2 components, we believe this is mostly due to the transition to the iPad 3, which we still expect to be introduced in 1H12. Furthermore, until this weekend, we believe it was too early to call iPad unit sales, as we believe most will be for holiday purchases.

This post first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog.