As 2010 draws to a close, our eyes begin turning to 2011 and the promise it holds. For Apple, the question becomes how its smartphone can retain the market dominance it’s seen to this point, and can the iPad break through as a must-own device for consumers? According to at least one analyst, the answer is a resounding yes, as Wedge Partners member Brian Blair believes 2011 will be a huge year for Apple. How huge? Blair predicts global sales of iPads reaching 48 million, and the iPhone moving 100 million units between January and December.

“We believe Apple remains the best-positioned company in the tech sector as we exit the year and look into 2011,” says Blair. “With the iPhone and the iPad, the company continues to experience tremendous product momentum across two core areas that we believe are still in the early stages of growth: with global handset units at 1.1 billion/year and the tablet opportunity still nascent.”

Among his predictions, Blair believes the coming year will see the release of the iPad 2, which will showcase a front-facing camera and an even thinner profile thanks to new manufacturing techniques. He’s also predicting that the iPhone will grow at a rate of 100 percent and that once 2011 is over Apple will own a full 10 percent share in the global handheld market. Not bad when you consider that Apple basically only has one product in the mobile market, albeit an impressive and in-demand one.

Of course, as with any forward-looking analysis, we have to take all these predictions with a grain of salt. Serious competitors such as Dell and HP are looking to make a splash in the tablet market, though given the iPad’s head start they’ll have to debut truly impressive machines. The iPhone is in an even better position, as even though there are plenty of other smartphones out there, Apple’s phone is still the first one many people think of and often the device of choice by those looking for a certain “coolness factor,” as well as ease of use. All in all there’s little reason to disagree with Blair on his predictions, so 2011 is looking to be a very good year for Jobs and friends.

[via Barron's]

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