In the super-secretive world of Apple, advance information is often limited to leaks from the people who assemble the company’s gadgets or supply it parts.
That makes a new analyst report out of East Asia especially intriguing. In an Oct. 6 research note, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White reports that Apple is developing a smaller version of its uber-popular iPad and suggests that sales numbers of the original iPad could reach 45 million in 2011.
White, who is New York-based but currently in China and Taiwan conducting research, did not identify his Asia-based contact, but noted that the person’s employer supplies components used in the iPad. The contact, says White, shipped more than 6 million parts to Apple during the third quarter of the year and expects to ship 7 million more in the fourth quarter.
Since Apple uses one unit of this particular component in each iPad, that adds up to shipments of 13 million iPads in the second half of 2010. For 2011, the contact believes Apple will sell as many as 45 million iPads, adds White.
Both those forecasts–for the second half of 2010 and the calendar year of 2011–are far more optimistic than White’s own expectations. In his note, White said he anticipated Apple would sell 9.17 million iPads in the second half of 2010 and 21.8 million iPads in 2011.
The source’s estimates are also higher than those of other analysts. Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster recently predicted that Apple would ship 21 million units of the iPad in 2011. Apple has not revealed sales figures since late June, when it announced that it had sold more than 3 million iPads during the device’s first 80 days of availability. It is expected to give an update when it reports earnings on Oct. 18.
White’s report contained a few other surprises, including some details about the next iteration of the iPad. His source believes the gadget will debut in the first quarter of 2011. Given that the original iPad launched in April (2010), that replacement date may be earlier than many industry observers expected.
As others have already speculated, White’s contact says the second-generation iPad will be smaller, with a screen that measures about seven inches, compared to the first iPad’s 9.7-inch screen. The new iPad will also include the high-resolution “Retina” display that the latest version of the iPhone (4) boasts, a micro or mini USB port, a camera and greater capacity of up to 128 gigabytes. The amount of storage in the current generation of iPads tops out at 64 gigabytes.
These specifications, if accurate, should address the most common criticisms of the iPad–namely, its size/weight, the inability to take photos or shoot videos and the difficulty of hooking it up to external devices like printers and scanners. The presence of a Retina display and built-in camera could also point to video-calling capabilities. Apple unveiled video chat software, called FaceTime, for the iPhone in July and has an interest in extending that feature to as many of its devices as possible.
A refreshed iPad could dim sales of tablets from Samsung, Dell and Research In Motion. These tablets, which are scheduled to hit the market in coming months, will all be the same size as the rumored next iPad
MacDailyNews: If a 7-inch iPad is coming, we would expect it to be an addition to what would then become the iPad family, not a replacement for the 9.7-inch model which, of course, would be in line for upgrades. Think FaceTime capability, meaning at least one camera.