Apple is the only consumer electronics company in the world that consistently releases new gadgets that sell in their millions during the first few days of availability. During their respective launch weekends alone, Apple sold 3 million third-generation iPad units, 4 million iPhone 4S units, and 5 million iPhone 5 units.
In fact, the company’s iOS devices have become so popular that they’re now considered a failure if they don’t sell several million within their first 72 hours on the market. According to one analyst, the iPad mini has to shift at least 3 million units this weekend for it to be considered a successful device.
BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk believes that the iPad mini is a flop if it doesn’t hit that target. Anything less than 3 million units, and Apple has failed to prove that there is sufficient demand for a smaller tablet at the iPad mini’s price points, Piecyk says:
We believe Apple’s first weekend sales of the iPad Mini needs, at a minimum, to top the 3 million first weekend sales of the iPad 3 in order to demonstrate that the management team can execute on ramping supply of new products and to provide some evidence that there is adequate demand for a smaller iPad at these price points.
It’s understandable that our peers and perhaps some investors may have lower expectations given the string of disappointments and falling EPS estimates under the new and changing management team.
However, we believe 3 million units is an appropriate bogey given that the Mini is being launched in nearly 3x the number of markets than the iPad 3, is at a much lower price point and sold out of pre-ordered product deliverable this weekend. The hurricane could impact first weekend in-store sales but all the pre-orders should be able to be booked as sales based on shipped date, not delivery date.
As things currently stand, it doesn’t look like the iPad mini’s going to be anywhere near as successful as the iPhone 5 was just over a month ago. Not only did it remain available in the Apple online store a great deal longer, but the lines it has spawned outside of Apple retail stores are nowhere near as long as those for the company’s latest smartphone.
Despite that, I think the iPad mini will do very well — particularly with the holiday season coming up. Maybe it won’t sell 3 million units during the first three days, but I’ll bet it won’t be a failure.