TMO Reports - Analyst: iPod Sales Will Be Down, But Offset By Better Mac Numbers

by , 2:05 PM EDT, June 13th, 2006

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster on Tuesday issued a research report in which he said that his recent checks with 15 Apple specialist resellers show lower-than-expected iPod sales that will be offset by stronger Mac revenue when Apple releases its current-quarter financial numbers next month. The better Mac sales will be the result of a full quarter of MacBook Pro availability, as well as the recent launch of the MacBook.

The biggest trend Mr. Munster took away from his interviews was 93% of the resellers saying that the initial demand they've seen for the MacBook is "similar or better than what they had been expecting prior to the launch." In fact, over half of the respondents said that early demand for the MacBook is greater than the early demand they saw for the MacBook Pro when it shipped in February.

One retailer told him: "MacBook demand is better than we had expected because so many of the customers that we had advised to wait to buy a MacBook instead of buying an iBook ended up coming back to buy, so we had some pent-up demand going into this one."

Seventy percent of the Apple resellers are seeing stronger demand for Macs compared to the year-ago quarter, which Mr. Munster attributed to the availability of the three new Intel Macs since January, as well as the so-called "halo effect" caused by the iPod. He noted, however, that "the Boot Camp beta program ... does not appear to be having a significant impact on Mac demand," with 75% of the resellers seeing a minor impact from it, 25% seeing no impact, and none of them seeing a major impact.

"In most cases, " the analyst wrote, "resellers that are seeing a small positive impact are seeing potential PC-to-Mac switchers pulling the trigger on the switch because they are less concerned about the transition, given Windows will be available as a safety net, if needed."

iPod: Up and Down

iPod feedback was mixed, however. Roughly half of the resellers said that iPod demand has dropped off from its level in the early spring, while the other half has seen stable demand since the post-holiday drop-off. Mr. Munster wrote: "Several Apple specialists did indicate that there was a positive bounce in May and June due to graduation gift giving."

"iPod demand is a bit weaker right now, because Apple hasn't come out with anything new on that front in a while," one reseller told the analyst. However, another noted: "iPods have not slowed down over the last few months -- there is a steady stream of people who need to replace their iPod or upgrade."

Looking forward, the analyst characterized the September quarter as a potential break-out one for Apple. He cited back-to-school, full MacBook and MacBook Pro availability, Boot Camp's impact on overall Mac demand, Apple's new ad campaign, and the halo effect as reasons to believe that.

The resellers Mr. Munster spoke with are non-Apple store independent retailers who earn most of their revenue from Apple products.

The analyst retained his "Outperform" rating on Apple's stock, with a US$99 price target. At 2:00 PM EST on Tuesday, Apple shares were selling for $58.84, up 3.23% for the day despite an overall decline in the Nasdaq. The stock crested the $70 mark in early May, but it's been on an up-and-down decline since then.