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Apple Sells 3 Million iPad minis in debut fueling demand optimism

Apple said yesterday it sold 3 million units of its iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad during the debut weekend, a sign that the new devices can help the company withstand accelerating competition in the tablet market.

“Demand for iPad mini exceeded the initial supply and while many of the pre-orders have been shipped to customers, some are scheduled to be shipped later this month,” Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said in a statement.

Apple began selling the 7.9-inch tablet in the United States and more than 30 other countries Friday, ramping up an effort to fend off competition in the market for tablets, which NPD DisplaySearch predicts will more than double to $162 billion by 2017. Amazon.com, Google and Samsung are vying for share with their own version of tablet computers.

“We estimate at least two-thirds of the units are iPad minis,” Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, wrote in a research report yesterday. “The iPad mini could blunt some of the competitive threat from low-priced Google and Amazon tablets.”

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., said the company would sell 1 million to 1.5 million of the smaller version of the tablet. Walter Piecyk of BTIG Research said the company needed to sell 3 million units of the iPad mini to demonstrate adequate demand.

New Yorkers looking to buy the latest iPad had fewer stores to shop in after Superstorm Sandy resulted in power blackouts and hobbled transportation. Apple closed two of its five New York stores as well as some in New Jersey because of the damage. Even so, the 5th Avenue store sold out within a few hours after almost 600 customers lined up, according to Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets.

“With all the extreme weather, I guess people still have time to buy an iPad,” Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., said in an interview. Given the storm conditions, Apple reported “a pretty good number” for debut weekend sales.

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