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Wednesday, April 05, 2006, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Apple shares rally as Mac users line up for Boot Camp

Shares of Apple Computer soared nearly 10 percent on Wednesday to close at $67.21 after the company announced a piece of software that will enable users of its new Intel Mac systems to run operating systems from rival Microsoft Corp.

The staggering rise in the company's shares came just 24 hours after analysts at several firms, including UBS, Standard & Poor's, and Lehman, each issued research notes in which they cut their price target on Apple shares.

Of the three firms, Standard & Poor's issued the largest price cut, slashing the Mac maker's target by $15 to $68. At the close of the market on Wednesday, Apple shares were already flirting with the firm's revised target. The gains offset a steady stream of losses that had compounded on Apple shares over the past three weeks.

While some Mac enthusiasts rejoiced as they followed links to Apple's Boot Camp Web page, others were just plain smitten.

"Yes, it is no April's fool," wrote one AppleInsider reader, who was one of the first to make note of Apple's Boot Camp announcement in a post on the AppleInsider Forums. "As a PC user of many years this is the beginning of what it will take to talk me into switching," said another. Indeed, analysts concurred.

In a research note released to clients shortly after Apple's announcement, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu called news of the software a "big deal."

"We believe this is Apple's 30th year anniversary surprise and potentially could be a significant game changer," the analyst told his clients.

Meanwhile, Ben Reitzes, an analyst with UBS Investment Research, said Apple's decision to include Boot Camp with its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, may allow the company to reap significant benefits beginning in its December quarter.

In a message on its Boot Camp Web site, Apple hinted that it may formally roll out the software under a different name when it exits pre-release status.

Apple shares continued to gain ground in after-hours trading, rising an additional 19 cent (or 0.28 percent) to $67.40 on a day when the stock traded at more than double its average volume.