Apple could sell anywhere between 1 million and 1.5 million iPad Minis over the weekend, according to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster.
In an investors note out yesterday, Munster noted that the projection is low compared with the 3 million 3rd-generation iPads sold during that product's opening weekend last March. The iPad Mini debuts today in 34 different countries, while the 3rd-gen iPad initially reached just 10 countries.
The estimate for the iPad Mini also includes preordered devices; preorders kicked off a week ago and quickly sold out. But the iPad Mini launching today is the Wi-Fi-only version, while the 3rd-gen iPad was initially available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + LTE models.
Why doesn't Munster anticipate higher initial sales for the tiny new tablet?
"The reason we expect fewer iPad Minis compared to the 3rd Gen is because of the lack of the wireless option and newness of the smaller form factor for consumers," Munster explained in his note.
However, sales are expected to rise in the long haul as consumers warm to the idea of a 7-inch tablet. Around 20 percent to 25 percent of all tablets currently sold are 7 inchers, estimates Munster. That percentage will likely shoot up over the next few quarters, pushed largely by the iPad Mini.
"We believe that the smaller tablet market has lacked the presence of a smaller iPad that brings the Apple ecosystem and brand to that market," the analyst said.
Apple may not see long lines of customers anxiously waiting for an iPad Mini this weekend. But Munster believes the new tablet will "gain momentum and become a more important product for Apple as consumers realize the benefits in portability and ease of use (one hand) from a smaller device size."
Some Apple watchers have questioned the company's decision to sell the iPad Mini for a starting price of $329.
But analysts such as J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz believe the screen size and iOS 6 capabilities of the Mini will distinguish it from Google's Nexus 7, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, and other $199 tablets.
Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller defended the Mini's price tag, saying that buyers will pay a premium price for a premium product just as they have for other Apple devices.