iPad Expectations “Over-Zealous” or Just Zealous?
The iPad’s debut this Saturday will be a milestone for Apple, but it’s not going to do much to change the company’s overall financial picture anytime soon. That’s the word from Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who worries that investors drunk on Apple’s “magical and revolutionary” Kool-Aid might have overzealous expectations for the tablet.
Which is not to say that Sacconaghi disputes the iPad’s potential as a market-defining device. He just wonders if there aren’t a bit too many unknowns at present to make hard and fast predictions about its sales trajectory.
“What will international pricing be?” Sacconaghi asks in a research note issued this morning. “What sort of media content will be available, and how quickly? How rapidly will Apple increase distribution beyond the 10 countries announced so far, compared to the iPhone which is available in 89 countries? How prevalent will non-Apple distribution be?”
Reasonable questions. And without answers to them, Sacconaghi is playing it safe with his sales estimates. He expects Apple (AAPL) to sell between 300,000 and 400,000 iPads over launch weekend–including pre-sales. But he figures the device will sell five million in its first full year at market and 6.8 million in fiscal year 2011.
“We note that the initial iPad launch will be a US only launch and will not include 3G models; we suspect that total (including pre-sales) first weekend sales will be slightly higher than the original iPhone’s first weekend (270K), given the iPhone had a similar price, and was US exclusive (although it did not offer pre-orders),” Sacconaghi writes.
“Our analysis suggests that iPhone sales run rates have fallen significantly (i.e., by a factor of 4x – 9x) following launch weekends; we think a drop-off in sales at the high end of this range is likely appropriate for the iPad, given that pre-sales will have boosted first weekend sales. Such a drop-off in iPad sales from our launch weekend forecast would result in unit sales for year 1 of about 5 million units in-line with our estimates.”
That might not be an “over-zealous” estimate in Sacconaghi’s eyes, but it’s certainly a bullish one. Still, the analyst concludes that the iPad’s near term financial implications for Apple may not prove to be as magical as investors hope.
“We believe that while the iPad may evolve meaningfully over time, we expect its impact on Apple’s earnings to be minimal during FY 10,” he says. “In the immediate term, iPad expectations appear over-zealous, which could provide a relative short-term disappointment for investors.”
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