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iPad holiday sales estimates are all over the place

iPadThere is little doubt that Apple was intent on selling a lot of iPads this holiday season. The Cupertino company widened its retail distribution channels by making the iPad available at wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T and big box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Target. Seemingly everywhere you went, there was an iPad for sale. The big question that will be officially answered in Apple's Q1 financial statement is whether this increased retail footprint lead to increased sales of Apple's tablet device.

While we wait for the official numbers to be revealed, Fortune turned to analysts and asked them to estimate Apple's holiday sales figures. These iPad holiday figures were all over the place, with some analysts, like Daniel Ernst of Hudson Square, predicting sales as low as 5 million and others, like Bill Shope of Goldman Sachs, estimating as high as 7.54 million units sold. The average number predicted by analysts landed at 6.53 million, which is higher than the 4.19 million sold in Q4 2010. This wide range may be the result of last quarter's faux pas. Analysts may be a bit gun shy at predicting high numbers for this holiday quarter as their Q4 predictions of 5-6 million overshot last quarter's numbers by 1-2 million. Interested parties will have to wait for Apple to confirm the final sales numbers when it releases its Q1 2011 earnings report on January 18, 2011.

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