Kindle Fire Predicted to Sell 5M at Launch, May Outsell iPad 2?

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Amazon’s Kindle Fire may be a bigger deal than many were expecting, if J.P. Morgan’s about-turn on the device is anything to go by. Weeks after telling investors that the device was “noise” with a low price point that only reflected how much it lacked in terms of usability, the company is forecasting Kindle Fire sales of between 4.5 to 5 million before the end of 2011.

J.P. Morgan analyst Douglas Anmuth suggests that, following the device’s release on November 15th, Amazon can expect somewhere in the region of 5 million sales before the end of the year, leading it to launch multiple models next year, including ones using 3G in addition to Wi-Fi.

(MORE: Amazon Sued Over Kindle Fire Already)

To put that 5 million estimate in some perspective, Apple sold 9.25 million iPads in the quarter immediately following the release of iPad 2; considering that the iPad 2 was available for the full quarter, as opposed to Kindle Fire’s six-week sales window before the end of the year, sales are essentially comparable (Of course, the Kindle Fire does have the advantage of the holiday season bumping sales).

Reports have suggested that pre-orders for the Kindle Fire are being racked up at the rate of around 2,000 an hour, or 50,000 per day, suggesting that it’s not impossible that the device could break first month sales record for a tablet device in the U.S.

MORE: Amazon Might Lose Money on Each Tablet (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.