Life is definitely good in the land of iPad. In 2016, sales of Apple’s tablet should top more than a hundred million units annually and half a billion units cumulatively. It’s projected to grab the biggest chunk of an estimated 60 million slates in this year, another indication that 2011 and 2012 will be the years of iPad. This notion is shared by analyst Jennifer Colegrove who says tablet PCs are “the fastest growing application for touch screens.”

A simple armchair analysis suggests cumulative iPad shipments nearing a whooping half a billion units by the end of 2016. Yes, five years is too long a time for crystal ball peering, but even the most outspoken naysayers coming out of the woodwork should acknowledge the iPad’s enormous potential for Apple’s fortunes.

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Take a look, if  you will, at the below chart of touch screen forecasts for tablet PCs distilled from DisplaySearch surveys of more than 190 suppliers of touch screen modules, controller ICs, ITO film, and other components. Assuming total shipments of 500 million iPads at an average selling price of $645 per unit yields cumulative iPad revenue of $322.5 billion by the end of 2016.

Android competition, pricing pressures and changes in the iPad product mix will probably lower that estimate. But no matter how you look at it, the gizmo is a game-changer from the financial point of view – even if cumulative revenues reach “only” $100 billion by the end of 2016.

You could be forgiven for thinking I’m daydreaming, but then again Apple sold 15 million iPads in just nine months. The device and related products and services accounted for 17 percent of the $26.74 billion of revenues Apple posted in its most recent quarter.

Presuming Android slates catch up beyond 2012 and assuming Apple won’t drop the ball in the meantime, the iPad could become Apple’s number one product by revenue this time next year. It’s well poised to boost the stock above the $1,000 a share mark. Not bad for a niche product.

According to Businesweek, the average twelve-month price target for AAPL stands at $434.56, or 30 percent higher than today’s $329.27 asking price in afternoon Nasdaq trading.

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