Apple iPad Mini: Demand Is Huge

Apple Sells Out of White iPad Minis During Pre-Orders
Source: Apple

There you have it: iPad mini demand is actually off the charts.

Apple announced Monday morning that it sold three million total iPads over the weekend, and "practically sold out" of the iPad mini, which starts at $329. On Friday and over the weekend, customers reported stock outs across the country on Twitter, telling CNBC that in many cases only 64-gigabyte black minis were available.

iPad minis with built-in cellular service still have yet to go on sale. Apple said that model will ship in mid-November, and told CNBC there has been no change to that schedule — meaning those models should ship in 2-3 weeks.

Though Apple did not say how the three million iPad figure broke down — how many were 4th-generation iPads vs. iPad minis — it seems clear that the mini made up the clear majority of models sold.

Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray estimates that about 2.5 million were minis, blowing past his prediction of 1.5 million for the launch weekend. He left his holiday quarter iPad revenue estimate unchanged at $12.6 billion.

From my analysis, it also seems likely that Apple's margins could outperform the low end of expectations for the holiday quarter, given that the mini's margins are below the company average and Apple is seeing strong demand for all iPad mini models. The 32GB and 64GB models sell for $429 and $529 respectively, and should be more profitable for Apple. The WiFi/cellular models that go on sale later this month should also carry higher margins.

The strong opening sales can't be good news for Apple rivals Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble, which are selling 7-inch tablets with slightly higher display resolution at considerably lower prices — starting at $199.

Those companies are selling their tablets at break-even or a slight loss hoping to lure customers into their shopping and advertising ecosystems. However, strong iPad mini sales could crimp those plans. If one or more of Apple's competitors make more units than they're able to sell before the models become obsolete, then they could face a costly inventory challenge .