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Apple's Biggest Week Ever: iPad Rocks, CEO Impresses, Stock Soars

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This week was Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) biggest moment, perhaps ever.

The technology company launched its third-generation iPad to much fanfare, and initial sentiment is that the new tablet is a winner.

What made this week different is the fact that there's a lot riding on the Cupertino, Calif.-based company as an investment. Apple's stock has rocketed 34% so far this year, more than it did for all of 2011, and the iPad refresh was new CEO Tim Cook's first introduction to customers and investors after company co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs died half a year ago.

Apple underwent a host of other firsts. The company's shares recently breached $500 apiece, the market value topped half a trillion dollars and its cash on hand surpassed $100 billion, Facebook's value after it holds its initial public offering this spring.

Interestingly, Apple didn't give the new iPad a name (simply calling it "The new iPad"), but packed it with several new features. Included are Retina Display, the ability to run on Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks from Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T), a quad-core processor, and a new iSight back-end camera.

Apple kept the pricing structure unchanged, as it has with previous versions. It will cost consumers $499 for the Wi-Fi 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB version, and $699 for 64GB option. The 4G models will cost an additional $130. Apple also lowered the price of the iPad 2, cutting the 16 GB Wi-Fi model to $399, and the Wi-Fi + 3G model to $529.

Apple received analysts' price-target increases following the iPad announcement, with FBN Securities Shebly Seyrafi raising the target to $730, the highest on Wall Street.

Analysts expect iPad sales to be exceptionally strong in 2012 and subsequent years, with Seyrafi raising his 2012 iPad estimate from 56.2 million to 61.2 million units. Other analysts, including Goldman Sach's Bill Shope, lifted their sales estimates.

The iPads are available for pre-order already, but are back-ordered at AT&T and Verizon, suggesting sales will be strong.

Apple shares closed the week higher, up 0.13% to $545.17.
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