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Apple's 'iPad Christmas' Promises Share Upside

Updated from 10:09 a.m. EST to provide executive comments regarding iPad mini sales in the tenth paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Corporate executives are usually bullish on their company's prospects for the upcoming quarter. However, when Apple (AAPL - Get Report) CEO Timothy D. Cook talks about the holiday shopping season, all eyes and ears perk up. Especially when his comments relate to iPads.

Speaking on Apple's earnings call, Cook talked about the prospects for the iPad business.

"I think it's going to be an iPad Christmas and -- but we will see, we will report the numbers back to you in January how we did, but we are pretty confident," he said. That's a bold statement to make, as the state of Apple's iPad business starts to reignite after the unveiling of the new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display.

Apple sold 14.1 million iPads last quarter, compared to 14.6 million in the fiscal third-quarter, and slightly more than 14 million iPads in the year ago quarter. With a massive redesign of the larger iPad, and the iPad mini getting Retina Display, it's likely to be a strong holiday season.

Both the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina Display received massive internal overhauls, with each tablet getting the A7 64-bit processor. The iPad Air also received an external overhaul, as seen in this commercial.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, who rates shares "overweight" and raised her price target to $585 from $540, noted management's positive tone on the conference call with regard to the upcoming holiday season. "Management's tone turned bullish," Huberty wrote in the note. "Whereas two quarters ago Apple CEO, Tim Cook, set the tone by acknowledging Apple had not delivered on everyone's expectations, yesterday's call focused on confidence in the future including a strong holiday season."

Huberty also raised her iPad estimates for the quarter, noting Apple's bullish tone "suggests C4Q unit growth is even stronger than we previously modeled (raising our iPad + Mac unit estimates) and that revenue guidance would have been 1-point higher and gross margin guidance 85 bps higher if not for this change." Huberty now expects Apple to generate $10.69 billion in iPad revenue and $57.2 billion in total revenue for the quarter.

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