Apple's iPad 2 unveiling viewed as 'crucial' to stay ahead of competition

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With over a hundred tablets expected to come to market this year looking to take on the iPad, Apple's unveiling of its second-generation tablet on Wednesday will be a critical moment for the company, one analyst believes.

Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believe's Apple's iPad 2 event, to be held on Wednesday, is a "crucial product launch." In particular, he said, analysts will look to see how well Apple handles the debut of its second-generation iPad with Chief Executive Steve Jobs on a medical leave of absence.

"We estimate there are well over one hundred tablets coming to market around the world this year," White said. "Assuming a new iPad is unveiled at this event, we believe Apple must make a convincing case for why the iPad 2 is better than the plethora of competitors coming to market, while at the same time persuading iPad 1 buyers to upgrade to iPad 2."

With 15 million iPads sold in calendar year 2010, the new device has become a very important product for Apple. White noted that the iPad and related products and services generated $4.61 billion in sales in the first quarter of Apple's fiscal 2011, amounting to 17.2 percent of the company's revenue.

The analyst has given a "conservative" estimate of 27.36 million iPad sales in fiscal 2011, generating $16.92 billion.

"In fact, we estimate that iPad sales will contribute nearly one-third of Apple's $36.8 billion in incremental revenue that we are modeling in (fiscal year 2011)," he wrote. "If we exclude iPad revenue from Apple's (fiscal year 2010) results and our FY11 model, our revenue growth rate projection for Apple would be 41% in FY11 versus our current projection of 56%."