Apple today said it sold 3 million iPad tablets during the opening three-day weekend of sales of the Mini, the same number it boasted it had dealt out in March for the then-new full-sized iPad.
"We set a new launch weekend record and practically sold out of iPad Minis," said CEO Tim Cook in a statement Monday. "We're working hard to build more quickly to meet the incredible demand."
Apple last Friday kicked off sales of the new iPad Mini, a 7.9-in. version of its iconic tablet, and the fourth-generation iPad, a refreshed model that sports a faster SoC, or "system on a chip," the company-designed A6X.
Apple did not break down sales for the iPad Mini and iPad, but claimed that the 3 million units were double that of sales of the Wi-Fi only third-generation 9.7-in. iPad in its first weekend eight months ago. In March, Apple sold both Wi-Fi and cellular devices from the get-go.
Currently, only Wi-Fi models of the iPad Mini and next-generation iPad are available.
Apple will eventually offer iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad tablets able to connect to mobile data networks. Previously, it had promised those would go on sale in mid-November -- which it still does on its online store -- but today the firm said the more expensive devices would be available "in a few weeks," perhaps hinting at a delay.
Although Apple did not separate iPad Mini from iPad sales, analysts were not shy from prognosticating.
"We estimate that two-thirds, or 2 million plus, of the units [were] iPad Minis," said Brian Marshall of the ISI Group, in a note to clients today.
Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, said that his checks over the weekend at Apple retail stores around the country found about 60% of them completely sold out of the iPad Mini.
Not surprisingly, White found that the least-expensive 16GB iPad Mini, which sells for $329, was not available at any store. The $429 32GB and $529 64GB iPad Minis were out of stock at 90% and 75% of the stores, respectively.
"During our exit Survey in New York City, we found the 16GB iPad Mini was the most popular of the three models, accounting for 53% of respondents, followed by 26% for 32GB and 21% for 64GB," said White in an email to clients today. "One of the reasons that consumers are interested in the iPad Mini is [to get] a quality iPad experience but at a lower price point, which naturally drives the strongest demand for the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad mini."
Brisk sales and ensuing inventory shortages are not uncommon for just-introduced Apple products, but some experts have predicted that the iPad Mini will be in especially short supply through the end of the year because Apple brought a new display manufacturer, Taiwan's AU Optronics (AUO), on board.
The iPad Mini sports a two-week backorder as of Monday; the fourth-generation iPad ships in three to five days after ordering.
Marshall forecast sales of 5 million iPad Mini tablets this quarter, while White predicted Apple would sell 30 million units of the diminutive tablet in Apple's fiscal year 2013, which started Sept. 30, 2012, and runs through late Sept. 2013.
Most analysts see the iPad Mini as Apple's answer -- albeit not a direct one -- to the smaller, cheaper tablets sold by Amazon and Google, and a prime component of its strategy to stymie rivals' sales.
White said there was evidence that Apple was, to some extent, doing just that.
"In our exit survey, 48% of the respondents did not own a tablet previously, versus 52% that owned a tablet," said White on Monday. "Of those [who] owned a tablet, 68% owned an iPad and 32% used a non-iPad tablet. Apple appears to be tapping into new iPad customers with the lower-priced iPad Mini."
The iPad Mini is priced between $329 and $529 for the Wi-Fi model. The 3G/LTE-capable iPad Minis will be sold at prices from $459 to $659. In the U.S., the cellular models will be available for AT&T's, Sprint's and Verizon's networks.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.