Apple's (AAPL) iPad tablet computer had the most successful consumer-electronics launch ever when it hit shelves earlier this year, according to a research note by Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan (via CNET).

Apple sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days after the launch, which more than triples the sales pace of Apple's iPhone launch in 2007 and also dwarfed the debut of the DVD player, he wrote. McGranahan predicts the device will generate global sales of $12 billion this year.

The iPad leads the tablet-computer market, which research firm In-Stat last month forecast would more than double its sales during each of the next four years. In its fiscal third quarter, which ended in June, Apple said its profit had jumped 78% to $3.25 billion, from $1.83 billion in the year-ago quarter, thanks to strong iPad sales, as well as growing iPhone and Mac sales.

The iPad's success is also drawing competition. Earlier this week, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer said the first tablets equipped with his company's Windows 7 software would go on sale this holiday season.

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