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One-fifth of buyers interested in Apple's unseen tablet

Despite the fact that no one has seen it, a new survey says that 21 percent of buyers are interested in purchasing an Apple tablet device. That demand, along with strong Mac and iPhone sales, is expected to propel the company's stock.

In a survey of 3,100 people, more than a fifth said they are interested in Apple's long-rumored tablet device, according to a new note to investors from RBC Capital Markets. That's well more than the 9 percent that said they were interested in the original iPhone in April 2007. The survey assumed that the product would be priced between $500 and $700 for its question.

In addition to tablet buzz, iPhone and Mac sales are surging, analyst Mike Abramsky said. With all of those factors, he projects that AAPL stock will hit $250.

RBC believes that smartphones are the next wave of computing, and the iPhone is leading the way. Market penetration of the devices is predicted to hit 35.1 percent, or 504 million, by the year 2012. The company said it sees room for four or five major smartphone players, likely including Apple, Research in Motion and Palm.

Abramsky predicts that Apple will sell at least 22.8 million iPhones in the 2009 calendar year, giving the handset a 2 percent share of all cellphone sales. By 2011, he predicts that total will more than double to 54.7 million, with a 4 percent total market share.

"We view the iPhone as a 10-year platform, with significant growth and share gains ahead," Abramsky said. "Our outlook reflects continued iPhone share gains in domestic and international markets, driven by distribution expansion, more innovations in devices and user experience, and additional iPhone SKUs. Apple's iTunes/iTunes Store/Device ecosystem remains a significant source of competitive advantage."

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In addition, a recent RBC IQ/ChangeWave Survey of 4,200 people found that the iPhone represents 30 percent of smartphone users, a number that has increased since the launch of the iPhone 3GS. The note states that half of Apple stores worldwide are struggling to meet consumer demand for the iPhone 3GS. Abramsky believes Apple will sell 7.25 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, higher than the Wall Street estimate of 6.6 million.

In addition, RBC found that MacBook sales have been strong, thanks to recent price cuts on the MacBook Pro line back-to-school pricing, and the launch of Apple's new operating system, Snow Leopard. A recent survey of 3,100 in early September shows that 25 percent of respondents bought a MacBook within the last 90 days, up from 12 percent in April. Given this, Abramsky has raised his projected Mac sales to 2.8 million, up from the previous prediction of 2.66 million.

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