Record sales forecast as Apple rolls out third iPad version
When news spread last Wednesday that the third version of Apple's iPad would be launched this week, Andrea Leung was far from excited about the prospect of joining the crowds to buy the new media tablet.
'I'm past the Apple craze. When it comes to queueing up, it's a case of 'been there, done that'. I'm happy with what I've got,' Leung, an associate at public relations company IPR Ogilvy, told the South China Morning Post.
Leung's four-person household has already contributed to the coffers of technology giant Apple and she said they were 'quite content' with what they have, which included one iMac, two iPhones, four iPads, and two Macbooks.
Market analysts and industry insiders offered a different view, with an upbeat forecast of record iPad sales this year. 'Many people are waiting for the iPad 3,' said Ricky Lam, the manager at local Apple reseller Vertex, which rings an average of between 10 to 20 iPad 2 purchases each day.
Lam said he had been besieged with inquiries about the iPad 3's release in Hong Kong. He expected parallel importers to again bring some stocks of the new tablet to Hong Kong ahead of authorised resellers and peddle these at premium prices.
'I forecast the iPad 3 and the [rumoured] iPhone 5 will both be a big hit,' he said.
That sentiment was shared by market analysts, who see Nasdaq-listed Apple's position as the world's most valuable company being further strengthened.
'Apple is our top pick and we rate it 'Outperform' with a price target of US$600,' said a report published last Friday by the information-technology hardware analyst team at Bernstein Research.
Apple's wildly successful introduction and huge global sales of the iPod, iPhone and iPad over the last several years enabled it to rocket past Microsoft and become the world's biggest technology company.
It has also moved firmly ahead of Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company worldwide, with a market capitalisation of US$508.31 billion at the close of trading last Friday. Its share price was up 0.13 per cent to finish at a record US$545.18.
Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, last month told shareholders that management was now considering ways on how to use its huge cash reserves, estimated at US$97.6 billion as of December 31 last year.
It has been speculated that Apple could announce a dividend this year. Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder and former chief executive, had held on to profits rather than pay out dividends, which the firm last did 17 years ago under a different chief, as a cushion to the risks it takes in developing innovative products.
Following the much-anticipated new iPad launch on Wednesday, Apple is forecast to sell about 57.39 million iPads this year, from 32.39 million last year, say Bernstein Research. That would put the iPad on track to hit a milestone of 100 million units sold since Apple introduced the tablet in 2010.
Alberto Moel, a senior analyst at Bernstein Research, said the global demand would come from both iPad 3 purchases and lower-priced iPad 2 sales.
Tim Bajarin, president of technology analysis firm Creative Strategies, said: 'If Apple lowers the price of the current iPad model so that it becomes more affordable, you can expect it to sell iPads in record numbers this year.'
According to online site 9to5Mac, the new iPad 3 prices will be the same across the board as the current iPad 2 models. Prices of the iPad 2 in Hong Kong start at HK$3,888.
Both Bajarin and Moel expect the new iPad to add a high-definition screen, faster processor, support for 4G mobile networks, and Siri, a voice-command feature.
Additional reporting by Sean Kennedy