Analysts look ahead to iPad mini launch

After months of speculation, the iPad mini is finally appearing on store shelves Friday, but analysts don’t expect a huge launch like the company normally makes for its devices.

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster predicted Thursday that Apple will sell from 1 million to 1.5 million of the smaller tablets over its first weekend, Business Insider reported.

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That may seem small compared with the 3 million third-generation iPads that Apple sold over that device’s launch weekend, or the 5 million in sales the company reaped for the iPhone 5. But, as Munster noted, Apple is releasing only the WiFi version of its tablet on Friday — not the full lineup, which includes tablets that connect to cellular networks.

Analysts are predicting the impact they think the smaller iPad will have on Apple’s tablet offerings and how it will hit the company’s bottom line.

Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu said that he expects Apple will ship 25 million iPads in the December quarter, up from the 14 million the company announced in the last quarter. He also predicted that the iPad mini will have a greater impact on sales of Windows PCs, Windows-based tablets and Microsoft’s Surface tablet than on the similar-sized Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire from Amazon.

“We continue to believe iPad mini is the competition’s worst nightmare and will likely slow down adoption of competitor tablets,” Wu wrote. “In particular, we believe this could end up being a very tough holiday season for Windows 8,” Microsoft’s updated operating system.

Shaw said that the iPad mini will not likely hurt sales of the full iPad too much, since the gadgets serve different markets.

Other estimates on the sales “cannibalization” between the two devices have been more dire. Tech-Thought’s Sameer Singh predicted that at least half of the sales for the iPad mini will come from people who would have otherwise bought the full-size tablet.

The Apple device’s WiFi versions start at $329 and come in black or white. Versions of the tablet that connect to Verizon’s or AT&T’s cellular networks are expected in the coming weeks.

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