iSuppli raises iPad sales forecast after Apple's strong Q3

The iPad was a star performer in Apple's third quarter earnings

Market researcher iSuppli sharply increased its forecast for sales of Apple's popular iPad to 12.9 million by the end of this year, from an earlier target of 7.1 million.

The new sales target came out just hours after Apple reported another record high in quarterly revenue, US$15.7 billion, for its fiscal third quarter, which ended June 26. Apple sold 3.27 million iPads during the quarter, contributing $2.17 billion to its revenue.

"The iPad is shaping up to be the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ of the 2010 holiday season, with product demand expected to vastly exceed available supply," said Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research for iSuppli, in a research note.

"Our latest research indicates there is much higher production than previously expected for two key components: LCD panels and NAND flash," she added.

The iSuppli analyst noted that Apple will have the iPad on sale in 19 countries by the end of this year, up from 10 during its third quarter, giving it a wider audience for more potential sales.

"iSuppli believes that the only limitation on iPad sales now is production -- and not demand," Alexander said in the note.

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