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Apple iPad – the 'Tickle Me Elmo' of 2010

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Apple will sell 12.9 million iPads before the end of this year, according to the market watchers at iSuppli, upping their earlier estimate of 7.1 million "magical and revolutionary" devices.

"The iPad is shaping up to be the 'Tickle Me Elmo' of the 2010 holiday season," said iSuppli's Rhoda Alexander in a statement, meaning that "product demand [is] expected to vastly exceed available supply."

"iSuppli believes that the only limitation on iPad sales now is production — and not demand," Alexander said. "Apple has taken a very controlled approach introducing this product to new markets, with manufacturing limitations likely being the major inhibitor on how quickly iPad sales expand."

If Apple can continue to increase the output of it Asian production partners, according to Alexander, the iPad's future looks bright indeed: shipments of the device will soar to 36.5 million in 2011 and 50.4 million in 2012.

Alexander also states that Apple will "undoubtedly" update the iPad in April 2011, with likely changes including a camera and the expansion of the line into different screen sizes.

Although Alexander sees some competition from Asus and Acer near the end of this year, Apple will pretty much own the field until HP and others join the market, most likely in 2011.

And competition won't be hardware-based, she avers, but rather will center on the application ecosystem that each vendor can encourage. "Just like the iPhone," says Alexander, "the rest of the market is feverishly playing catch-up to the iPad at this point." ®

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