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Thursday, June 02, 2005, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Apple overstocked on most iPods, Macs leading into WWDC?

Shipments of Apple's iPod digital music players appear flat or declining this month as sources report the company is, for the first time in a long while, seemingly overstocked on most iPod models with about a month remaining in its third fiscal quarter. Most Mac models are also following a similar trend, with a few exceptions.

Several Wall Street analysts are predicting that the Cupertino, Calif-based Apple is quietly preparing to introduce at least one new iPod model this spring. Most bets are on a new flash-based player that will supposedly include a small display screen and a 480 song or 2GB capacity. And because the rumored display screen will likely be anything but vast, displaying more than individual song data may prove difficult, the analysts say. This could possibly allow the purported player to remain within the 'shuffle' family.

Ironically, today Apple is believed to be sitting on its most significant inventory of iPod shuffles since the player hit the market in February. According to reliable sources of information, tens of thousands of iPod shuffles remain idle in the channels this week alongside a good number of iPod photos.

In fact, for the first time in over a year, there is enough stock of all of Apple's major products — both Mac and iPod — that even the company's often-neglected value added retailers can get most products on demand. The only exceptions appear to be the new iMac G5 and the Special Edition U-2 iPod, both of which appear to be lingering just below a supply and demand balance.

In the Mac sector only two product lines show any potential for a refresh before the company's third quarter ends in late June: the iBook G4 and the Mac mini. Both product lines have seen a significant slowing of demand recently and are prime subjects for a rebuffing as the educational buying season approaches.

While the Mac mini is due to gain a bit more RAM and potentially the long-lost iPod dock, sources have only commented on slightly redesigned iBooks said to be making the rounds on the west coast. If Apple fails to refresh either of these products next week, it could be almost a month before the company makes any moves.

"It will be interesting to see what [Apple] does with [the] remainder of this quarter," said one source. "They're overstocked right now in several departments." But it's not just the company's current inventory that is turning heads. Sources say that along with the increase in product availability came a significant decline in the number of build-orders coming into Apple's overseas manufacturing facilities. It's an odd trend with a major Apple event around the corner.

Apple next week will host its annual World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, which has predominately been a software-centric event. Still, company chief Steve Jobs has been known to pull a hardware trick or two from his hat. Last year he introduced new Apple Cinema Displays and would have unveiled the iMac G5 if IBM had supplied Apple with enough microprocessors to meet demand. Two years ago, WWDC 2003 delivered the Power Mac G5 and iSight video cameras.

Anticipation of this year's announcements has lead to wide-spread speculation amongst AppleInsider forum members. They're hoping Apple will offer some favorable news on the fate of a PowerBook G5 and multi-core Power Mac G5.