With Apple currently readying its next-generation iPad 3 tablet, new estimates suggest the company could sell nearly 50 million iPads this year. In a note to investors on Wednesday morning, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu suggested that calendar 2012 iPad sales could come in at approximately 48 million units, and he calls that a conservative estimate. “We believe this significant refresh will likely help drive higher iPad sales and help further differentiate from arguably the only real competitor in the market, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and not to mention the myriad of Android offerings out there,” Wu wrote. “We are currently modeling 48 million iPad shipments for calendar 2012.” Apple is reportedly planning to unveil the iPad 3 in February with a faster quad-core processor, a new 2,048 by 1,536-pixel HD display and 4G LTE support. Multiple reports have also suggested that Apple will continue to sell an iPad 2 model at a reduced price following the iPad 3 launch.