By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
January 15, 2012

The Street’s consensus: 13.5 million. The indies are 10% more bullish

Everybody we’ve heard from expects Apple (AAPL) to report record iPad sales for the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

And why not? Tablets were a popular gift item this past holiday season. The iPad 2 didn’t face much competition — except perhaps from Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle Fire. And although there were rumors of an iPad 3 coming in March or April, that was far enough away to not cut too deeply into Christmas sales.

Estimates of iPads sold last quarter among the 42 analysts we’ve polled range from a low of 11.73 million put forward early in the quarter by Gabelli & Co.’s Hendi Susanto to a high of 19.47 million offered in early January by¬†Alexis Cabot of the MacObserver’s Apple Finance Board.

But those two numbers are outliers. In fact, there was more agreement than usual among the Wall Street analysts and our panel of independents. The average estimate from the pros was 13.5 million iPads. The average from the indies was 14.8 million — a difference of less than 10%

The consensus among all 42 analysts is just under 14 million. That would represent a 90% increase over the same quarter last year and would bring the total number of iPads sold since 2010 to nearly 52.5 million.

Last quarter, the analysts overshot the mark a bit. They were looking for sales of 11.92 million, a year-over-year increase of 185%. Instead, Apple sold 11.12 million iPads, an increase of “only” 166%.

We’ll find out how close this quarter’s estimates are when Apple reports its earnings after the markets close on Jan. 24. (For iPhone estimates, see here.)

Below: The individual estimates that have come in so far and the dates they were submitted, with the independents in green and the institutional analysts in blue. The rank numbers show how accurate each analyst’s estimates were over the past four quarters (the lower the better).


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