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iPad 2 Critical for Apple: Analyst

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- With more than 100 tablets expected to flood onto the market this year, Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) widely-anticipated iPad 2 launch on Wednesday is critically important for the consumer tech giant, according to Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities.

"This event is not to be taken lightly, as the iPad is an important growth driver for Apple, and the company enjoys a first mover advantage," he said in a note released on Tuesday. "We believe Apple must make a convincing case for why the iPad 2 is better than the plethora of competitors coming to market, while at the same time persuading iPad 1 buyers to upgrade to iPad 2."

Apple's expected iPad 2 unveiling on Wednesday is crucial for the tech giant, according to Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White.

Apple is expected to woo consumers with a host of new iPad features, including front and rear-facing cameras, FaceTime video calling and perhaps a new operating system, iOS 5.

Ticonderoga's White warns, however, that the San Francisco launch will lack the star power brought by the company's iconic CEO, Steve Jobs. "This gathering will allow investors to evaluate how the Apple team executes during a crucial new product launch in light of Steve Jobs's medical leave of absence," he wrote. " But we believe the combination of a smooth presentation and a compelling iPad 2 offering can keep the company's stock moving in an upward trajectory."

Apple shares have climbed more than 68% over the last 12 months to reach $352.31, helped by the success of the initial iPad launch last year. The company has already sold more than 14.77 million iPads and the device accounted for 75% of global tablet shipments during the December quarter, according to research recently released by Strategy Analytics.

Sales of iPads and iPad accessories accounted for just over 17% of the company's recent first-quarter revenue, with Apple selling 7.3 million of the devices, 3 million more than the prior quarter.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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