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Apple expected to sell up to 1.5M iPad minis over launch weekend

The iPad mini is forecast to get off to a strong but modest start this weekend with sales of up to 1.5 million units, but over time Apple's 7.9-inch tablet is expected to gain popularity.

Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray believes that Apple will sell between a million and 1.5 million iPad minis over the launch weekend. On the high end, that would be half the 3 million third-generation iPads Apple sold at launch this March.

One reason for a smaller launch is the fact that there will not be any 4G LTE models available at launch. Those versions of the iPad mini are scheduled to launch later this month.

Another reason cited by Munster is the "newness of the form factor for consumers." He currently believes smaller-sized tablets account for about 20 to 25 percent of overall market units, but he sees the share of smaller tablets growing in the future.

"Consumers will gradually realize the benefits of the smaller form factor, which will drive adoption, although it may not take form in lines for tomorrow's launch," Munster wrote.

In particular, Munster believes consumers will appreciate the ability to use the iPad mini with one hand, and the enhanced portability the smaller form factor offers. Until now, he said, the market for smaller tablets has been limited because existing devices like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 lack the ecosystem and brand that Apple is bringing to market with the iPad mini.

Last month, before the iPad mini was made official, Munster said he believes every five iPad mini sales would be equal to cannibalization of one full-size iPad. His prediction of a 20 percent cannibalization rate suggests Apple could greatly expand its addressable market by offering two different screen sizes.