Apple Estimating 2013 Sales of 33M iPads, 55M iPad minis

The Apple Crystal BallApple is reportedly estimating sales of 33 million iPads and 55 million iPad minis, according to DigiTimes. Citing unnamed sources in Apple's supply chain, the Taiwan news outlet reported that the new internal projections replace previous plans for selling 60 million iPads and 40 million iPad minis.

Apple doesn't make these projections public, of course, but some back of the napkin math suggests two major points of interest. The first is that these projections represent a decrease in the total number of iPads that Apple expects to ship, from 100 million down to 88 million.

The second is that the iPad mini is proving to be the more popular device, this despite Steve Jobs's public declarations that 7 inches was too small for a tablet. Of course, the iPad mini actually has a 7.9-inch display, but the point is that consumers are flocking to this form factor in droves.

As we often note, DigiTimes is thoroughly plugged into Apple's supply chain in Taiwan and China. Even assuming that the media outlet's sources are telling the truth as they know it, the chances of it representing the entirety of Apple's big picture is very small.

Changes in orders or projections given to specific Apple suppliers don't necessarily reflect what other suppliers are being told, and they don't necessarily reflect changes in the supply chain related to future projects.

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to this during Apple's January 23rd quarterly conference call when he said:

I know there's been lots of rumors about order cuts and so forth, so let me just take a moment to make comment on this. I don't want to comment on any particular rumor, or I would spend my life doing that.

I would suggest that it's good to question the accuracy of any kind of rumor about build plans ... and also stress that even if a particular data point were factual, it would be impossible to accurately interpret the data point as to what it meant for our overall business.

[That's] because the supply chain is very complex. And we obviously have multiple sources for things, yields might vary, supplier performance may vary, inventory conditions can vary. I mean, there's just an inordinately long list that would make any single data point not a great proxy for what's going on."

Accordingly, make of the DigiTimes report what you will. There is at least a kernel of truth and/or accuracy in almost all of them, but what they mean in the big picture is another matter.

In the meanwhile, if Apple were to sell 88 million iPads in 2013, it would represent a solid year-over-year increase over 2012, when the company sold 58.31 million units.

Shares of $AAPL traded higher on Thursday, ending the day at $430.582, up $4.92 (+1.16 percent), on moderate volume of 16.7 million shares trading hands.