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Despite iPad 3 rumors, holiday sales of iPad 2 expected to soar

Apple iPad 3 rumors abound, but analysts don't think that will slow sales of iPad 2 this holiday season

Rumors are running rampant that Apple will release a next-generation iPad in February, likely called the iPad3. But if you thought that would slow sales of the iPad2 this holiday season, think again.

Tech analysts are predicting massive sales for Apple's popular tablet. Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research is estimating fourth-quarter iPad sales of 13.6 million units. That's in line with what Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, estimates: He predicts Apple will sell 13.5 million iPads in the December quarter, an 84% increase over the same quarter a year earlier. That amounts to $8.26 billion in sales for the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant. 

In a recent analyst note, Munster said Apple products were popular wish-list items for teens in the firm's biannual survey of young people. The iPad was the second-most-requested Apple product, behind the iPhone.

The analyst also noted that teens of average income seemed to be drawn more toward the iPad, while upper-income teens preferred the Mac. 

"In short, it appears that the iPad is appealing to more price-sensitive buyers, while the Mac has retained a premium appeal," Munster said. 

Buzz over a new iPad grew last week when a Citi analyst said Apple was preparing for a February release.

As my colleague Nathan Olivarez-Giles reported, rumors say the new device will be similar to the iPad 2. But it will also include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner, who predicted fourth-quarter iPad sales would total 12 million to 13 million units.

Gardner reportedly said "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet. The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was released this March.

The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons the iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.

Tell us: With rumors of an iPad 3 swirling around, will you wait for the next-generation Apple tablet or cave in this Christmas? Or are you buying a tablet from a competitor instead?

RELATED:

Apple iPad 3: A post-holiday gift to the economy?

Apple to become PC leader, report says -- if iPad counts as a PC

Apple iPad 3: Retina display and 5 more features we'd like to see

-- Andrea Chang

Twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: Shoppers check out iPad 2s at an Apple store in San Francisco on Black Friday. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

 
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