In a new note to investors, analyst Katy Huberty with Morgan Stanley said suppliers for the iPad have currently forecast 2.5 million iPads to be shipped in the first three months of availability, from March to May. In all, Apple will ship between 8 million and 10 million by the end of 2010, suppliers said -- a number much higher than the previous expectation of 5 million.
Huberty said the upward revisions to iPad build rates "point to strong initial pre-orders." Every one million iPads shipped equates to roughly 25 cents of earnings per share. A strong iPad debut, she said, sets up for "significant earnings upside."
The consensus on Wall Street, she said, is that Apple will sell between 3 million and 4 million iPads in the product's first year. But supplier shipping projections suggest the Cupertino, Calif., company will exceed market expectations.
"Near-term, we believe iPad will target the sizeable sub-$800 consumer notebook market, which equates to 30 million units in the U.S. and 120 million units globally," the report said. "Medium-term, newly introduced content (books, magazines, video) and iPad-optimized apps could broaden the addressable market and strengthen iPad sales momentum later this year."
Huberty said she believes the market is currently under-appreciating the long-term demand for the iPhone and iPad. She projects that Apple could have more than a 10 percent share of global handset sales, and 25 percent of the smartphone market, in the next 3 to 4 years.
Morgan Stanley has maintained its overweight rating for AAPL stock, with a price target of $250.
Also Monday, Apple began shipping iPads for those who placed the first preorders. Wi-Fi-only models have been shipped via UPS and are due to be delivered in the U.S. on April 3.
Apple has sold out of its initial run of iPad preorders. As of Saturday, those who attempted to prepurchase were informed that their device will ship by April 12.
Strong demand for iPad accessories has also caused delays. Those who didn't buy in on the first run of preorders for the keyboard dock and power adapter will now have to wait until May.
When it began accepting preorders earlier this month, Apple limited purchases to two per person. The company also turned down volume orders for businesses, suggesting a tight supply for the device's launch. It was estimated that Apple secured 120,000 iPad preorders in the first day alone.