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Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 05:10 am PT (08:10 am ET)

Strong interest in Apple iPad expected to produce 7M first-year sales

A new survey of 2,500 consumers found that a large number — 21 percent — are interested in purchasing an iPad, which has led one prominent analyst to project 7 million sales of Apple's new device in its first 12 months on the market.

The AlphaWise study released Wednesday by Morgan Stanley found that 4.6 percent of respondents indicated "extreme interest" in the iPad. Another 16.4 percent said they are "somewhat interested" in purchasing Apple's multi-touch device.

Based on these numbers, analyst Katy Huberty has forecast sales of 6 million units in 2010, and 7 million over the device's first 12 months of availability. She argued in a note to investors that the consensus forecast on Wall Street of 4 million to 5 million units is too conservative.

Still, most customers need to be sold on the concept of the iPad. The lion's share of respondents — 65 percent — said they are not interested at all in the iPad. In addition, 14 percent indicated they are "somewhat not interested."

The iPad also appeals to a wide range of customers, with the target market falling in the 25-34 age range. But users of all age groups are interested in the iPad, with people 35-44 taking 27 percent of interest, 45-54 garnering 22 percent, and 55-and-up with 17 percent. Almost half — 47 percent — of those interested in the iPad are high earners, making more than $90,000 a year.

Morgan Stanley 1


Consumers who responded to the survey said the most common tasks they would use the iPad for are browsing and e-mail, a selection made by 90 percent of respondents. Another 67 percent said they would use it for multimedia consumption, 60 percent for print media consumption, and 57 percent for gaming.

Huberty also cautioned that cannibalization is a threat with the iPad, much like the iPhone has cut into sales of Apple's iPod. The survey found that the notebook market is most at risk, followed by the iPod touch and e-reader markets.

Morgan Stanley 2


The survey also found that the average selling price for the iPad is $625, combined with more than $50 in accessories. The total $675 cost comes in higher than the previous $660 estimate Huberty had calculated.

Morgan Stanley has maintained its price target of $250 for AAPL stock, and continues to rate the company as "overweight."

RBC Capital Markets

Also Wednesday, analyst Mike Abramsky with RBC Capital Markets issued a note to investors in which he said Tuesday's MacBook Pro refresh only further solidifies Apple's iPad as the company's entry-level portable PC. He noted that Apple left its MacBook Pro pricing largely unchanged, which means the iPad is the only counter the Mac maker has for the growing netbook market.

"Apple is betting iPad's form factor, engineering, design and rich interactive content experience, with Apple's brand, can create and lead a new portable computing metaphor where Apple has first mover advantage (product, install base, content/apps momentum)," Abramsky wrote.

RBC Capital Markets


The analyst said he expects future versions of the iPad to add features that will increase its "allure and competitive differentiation," such as iPad-desktop connectivity, a camera, and cloud integration.

Like Huberty, Abramsky cautioned that there is a risk of cannibalization of the MacBook line with Apple's iPad as the device makes inroads in the netbook market. But if the iPad begins to address the global home PC market, which sells more than 150 million units a year, it carries even greater potential for Apple.