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Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Current quarter iPod sales tracking below plan - analyst

While admitting that it may be too early to make a precise call on Apple Computer's September quarter iPod shipments, one Wall Street analyst says data from the first month shows sales to be tracking just below expectations.

In a research note released to clients on Tuesday, PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster said his analysis of NPD data from the month of July — the first month in Apple's September quarter — suggests iPod sales of around 8.0 million for the quarter.

Munster had modeled Apple to sell 8.6 million iPods in the September quarter, which he says the company can still achieve if it ships a new or updated iPod nano by the end of September.

"While our iPod NPD extrapolation analysis suggests that iPod shipments through the month of July are tracking slightly below plan, we continue to believe that Apple will ship new/updated iPods (likely updated nano) in September," Munster wrote.

"Assuming Apple does ship new iPods in September and depending on the timing of shipment within the month, we believe it is still possible that our 8.6m unit estimate for the quarter can be achieved."

Based on the July NPD data, the analyst said investors should expect slight downside to his 8.6 million unit estimate if Apple fails to produce a new iPod by the end of September.

Munster maintains an "Outperform" rating on Apple shares with a price target of $99.