Analyst: iPad mini Launch Weekend Sales to Hit 1.5M

Apple's iPad mini hit store shelves Friday morning, and Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster expects the company to sell between 1 million and 1.5 million of its 7.9-inch tablet by the end of the weekend. Preorders for Apple's small size iPad started a week ago, and the company sold through that inventory within a few days.

iPad mini opening weekend sales estimates at 1.5 million

In comparison, third generation iPad sales hit the 3 million mark on launch weekend earlier this year, although Mr. Munster doesn't see this weekend's lower launch sale expectations as a problem. Instead, he thinks some buyers are holding out for WiFi plus LTE version that's due out in a couple weeks -- an option that third gen iPad buyers didn't have to wait for.

He also thinks lower initial sales are to be expected because small form factor tablets make up only about 25 percent of the overall market.

"We believe that over time that will change, and consumers will gradually realize the benefits of the smaller form factor iPad, which will drive adoption, although it may not take form in lines for tomorrow's launch," Mr. Munster said. "While we don't believe we will see it tomorrow, we believe the iPad Mini will gain momentum and become a more important product for Apple as consumers realize the benefits in portability and ease of use (one hand) from a smaller device size."

Apple's new iPad model ships with a 7.9-inch 1024x768 resolution display instead of a 9.7-inch Retina Display. The iPad mini sports the same resolution as the iPad 2, although the pixels are packed into a smaller space which improves the overall image quality. The lower resolution is noticeable when compared to a Retina Display iPad, but the trade off is that developers don't need to recode any of their iPad apps to fit the smaller screen size.

Even with its comparatively lower resolution, Mr. Munster thinks the iPad mini will help kick start the small form factor tablet market.

"We believe that the smaller tablet market has lacked the presence of a smaller iPad that brings the Apple ecosystem and brand to that market," Mr. Munster said. "We estimate that about 20-25 percent of total tablets are of the ~7-inch variety, but expect that percentage to be driven up significantly by the iPad mini over the next few quarters."

Apple is currently trading at US$592.69, down 3.85 (0.65%).

[Thanks to SlashGear for the heads up.]