Analyst Brian Blair of Wedge Partners issued the forecasts Tuesday after checks with Apple's supply chain, financial publication Barron's reports. Blair sees 100 million iPhones sold in 2011 as "a staggering number any way you look at it," and believes Apple is preparing for the "nearly 100% year over year growth for iPhone in 2011" required to make that number possible. Additionally, the iPad supply chain suggests Apple intends to product 45-48 million iPads next year, according to the analyst.
Blair's numbers, which should be taken with a grain of salt, represent a significant jump in analyst predictions. For instance, Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner predicts Apple will sell almost half as much in the 2011 fiscal year as Blair's estimate: 52 million iPhones and 23 million iPads. After fourth-quarter 2010 sales of the iPad were lower than Wall Street expectations, Needham & Company analyst Charlie Wolf predicted Apple will ship just 18 million iPads in 2011, warning that the iPad could miss even that target depending on growth in the tablet market.
According to Apple's recent Form 10-K for fiscal year 2010, the company sold 39.9 million iPhones, a 93 percent increase year-over-year, and 7.4 million iPads.
Undaunted by last quarter's less than expected iPad sales, Blair sees Apple as "incredibly bullish" with its growth predictions. âWe believe Apple remains the best-positioned company in the tech sector as we exit the year and look into 2011,â Blair wrote in the research note. âWith the iPhone and the iPad, the company continues to experience tremendous product momentum across two core areas that we believe are still in the early stages of growth: with global handset units at 1.1 billion/year and the tablet opportunity still nascent."
iPad growth will be driven by the arrival of the iPad 2, which Blair believes will include a front-facing camera and a thinner unibody form factor.
According to the analyst, Macs will see a lift next year as well. "We additionally see meaningful opportunity for Apple in its Mac line, particularly with the companyâs new $999 11 inch screen MacBook Air, which our checks show to be selling higher than expected units both online and in Apple Stores,â wrote Blair.
MacBook Air unit momentum will cause Wall Street to raise its expectations for Mac units next quarter, Blair predicts. âApple has created something rather spectacular with the new Air, but has done so in almost a stealthy manner," he wrote. "We believe the 11 inch Air will be both [sic] provide solid incremental units to Appleâs December quarter Mac units, but also add meaningful incremental revenues to the company over the next year.â
In 2009, Wedge Partners correctly predicted that Apple would refresh its iMac and MacBook offerings "in the next several weeks." In July 2009, Wedge Partners analyst Matt Mathison predicted a Chinese iPhone launch would arrive before February 2010, but the device launched just a few months later in October 2009.