'A little cannibalization' of Macs from Apple's iPad seen as 'a good thing'

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While sales of the iPad are replacing Mac purchases for some customers, one new analysis concludes that's a good thing, as growth and market share opportunities for tablets provide more potential for Apple.

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray believes that over the next 10 years, the total tablet market will exceed that of the PC market in terms of units. And as consumers shift their traditional PC setup to include tablets, Apple is positioned on the forefront of the emerging market with its industry leading iPad.

Munster believes that some cannibalization of the Mac from the iPad is unavoidable. And even Apple officials themselves have said on numerous occcasions that iPad sales are likely to have eaten up some sales of Macs.

But with Mac sales continuing to grow and outpace the rest of the PC market, Apple executives have shown little concern over so-called "cannibalization" of the Mac by the iPad.

"If this is cannibalization, it feels pretty good," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, then the company's chief operating officer, said during a quarterly conference call in January of 2011.

Combined iPad and Mac sales are currently around $62 billion. Assuming "aggressive cannibalization" of the Mac by the iPad in the years to come, Munster sees the combined segments doubling in sales to $119 billion by 2015.

In calendar year 2012, Munster expects Apple will sell 66 million iPads, representing roughly two-thirds of the total tablet market. But while about 100 million tablets will be sold this year, research firm IDC estimates that the PC market will still be considerably larger, with 371 million units sold in 2012.

However, Piper Jaffray sees the tide turning in the coming years, with the gap narrowing in 2015 when total tablet sales reach 301 million, compared to 484 million PC sales. Munster believes that tablet sales could overtake notebooks by 2015, and exceed total PC sales before 2020.

Munster acknowledged that some may find the shift from Macs, with an average selling price of $1,262, to the iPad, which has an average selling price of just $559, as a negative for the company. But he believes that in the greater scheme of the overall market, it's a positive transition for Apple.

"At 1% share of the incremental PC units in 2015, Apple would generate $311 million incremental revenue," Munster wrote in a note to investors, "but a 1% share of incremental tablet sales in 2015 would generate $394 million in revenue."

Piper Jaffray has maintained its "overweight" rating for AAPL stock, with a price target of $910.