Facing sluggish competition from laptops and rival tablets, Apple could sell as many as 22 million iPads during this year's holiday-shopping quarter, says investment analyst Jason Schwarz.
In an article for Seeking Alpha, Schwarz declared late last week that the "era of the laptop is over" and that Apple is the sole beneficiary of the trend away from portable PCs in favor of tablets.
The analyst offered an anecdote of a businessperson who used to carry a MacBook Air everywhere but now relies just on a desktop and iPad. Schwarz also pointed to specific studies showing weaker demand for laptops.
A recent report from DisplaySearch put Apple at the top of the list of mobile PC vendors based solely on its iPad sales (assuming the iPad can be considered a mobile PC). For the second quarter, tablet shipments overall rose 400 percent to almost 16.4 million, while notebook shipments inched up only 2 percent to just 48 million.
A report from Gartner found that PC shipments in Western Europe fell 19 percent in the second quarter. Apple was the only one of the top five vendors to eke out some growth.
Though the iPad has lost some ground to rival tablets over the past year, Apple's share of the market is still holding at around 75 percent, according to data from ABI Research.
With declining demand for notebooks and the appeal of tablets, who most stands to gain?
As Schwarz noted, Hewlett-Packard is out of the running after the company decided to pull the plug on its TouchPad tablet. Other tablet vendors, such as HTC, LG, Acer, and Samsung are at a disadvantage as they control the hardware but not the software.
The analyst also cited the fragmented nature of the Android OS as a "disaster that resulted in Google's desperate acquisition of Motorola." He said that since Android apps are not designed to run on any specific tablet, older devices could be incompatible with new flavors of Google's mobile OS. As a result, Android is "proving to be a weak direct competitor to the Apple ecosystem," according to Schwarz.
That leaves the iPad as the only tablet with the power to put a further dent in the laptop market, says the analyst, who forecasts that Apple could sell 21.9 million tablets over the fourth quarter. Though that number seems almost unattainable over the course of just three months, Schwarz cites the iPad's growth of 183 percent during Apple's fiscal third quarter, which ended in June.
He also believes the iPad could mimic the growth rate that the iPhone experienced in 2010, when shipments of the phone jumped from 8.4 million in the second quarter to 16.2 million in the fourth.