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Sunday, May 02, 2010, 05:45 pm PT (08:45 pm ET)

Apple's iPad 3G estimated to have sold 300K on launch weekend

Checks with 50 Apple retail stores have led one prominent analyst to predict Apple sold about 300,000 iPad 3G units, including preorders, over the device's first weekend of sales.

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray issued a note to investors Sunday, revealing the estimate based on checks with numerous stores, as well as in-person attendance of the iPad 3G launch in New York and Minneapolis. If correct, Munster's assumption would have the iPad 3G sell as many units in its first weekend as the Wi-Fi-only iPad sold on its first day in early April.

Munster said supply was limited on launch weekend, with 49 of 50 stores surveyed sold out of the iPad 3G by Sunday. The analyst said he now believes Apple has sold more than 1 million iPads, which suggests his previous estimate of 1.3 million sales in the June quarter may be conservative.

The launch of the 3G-compatible iPad also helped sales of Wi-Fi-only iPads, with those models sold out at most Apple retail locations as well. Munster said he believes the sellouts are due to stronger-than-expected demand and lower-than-intended supply.

"Near-term, this may put downward pressure on launch day/weekend statistics, but long-term we see it as a positive, as consumers are definitely interested in the iPad as a new category," Munster wrote. "In the first several quarters, we believe Apple will sell about 60% wi-fi only iPads and 40% 3G models."

Though he admitted his estimate of 1.3 million sales for the quarter is likely conservative, Munster has not revised his estimate, citing uncertainty surrounding the 3G and international launches. Strong demand and short supply forced Apple to delay the launch of the iPad overseas until late May.

Retail checks after the Wi-Fi-only iPad's first day of sales in early April inspired the analyst to increase his forecast of first-day sales to between 600,000 and 700,000. That estimate proved to be too aggressive, as Apple quickly announced it had sold 300,000 on the device's first day, and topped 500,000 by the end of its first week.

Munster later conceded that he was too optimistic in his estimates, and revised his total 2010 iPad sales forecast to 4.3 million. The analyst continues to believe that Apple's latest product will be a success with strong consumer demand.

Last week, one online advertising firm said it believed that Apple had sold more than a million iPads since it launched on April 3. That estimate suggested Apple crossed the milestone before the 3G-capable iPad debuted.

Customers who preordered Apple's iPad received theirs in the mail on Friday, while Apple's U.S. retail stores began selling the device at 5 p.m. on Friday. The 3G iPad models carry a $130 premium over their Wi-Fi-only counterparts, and offer no-contract data plans with the AT&T 3G network. The 16GB iPad 3G model starts at $629, the 32GB capacity is $729, and the high-end 64GB offering is $829.