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Analyst: iPod sales to hit 23.5 million by 2006

One analyst believes the iPod adoption rate will surge to critical masses over the next 6 years, transforming Apple into a steady 10 billion dollar company and increasing Mac sales along the way.

A leading Wall Street analyst expects 100 million Windows users to own iPods by 2008, Macworld UK is reporting.

In a 27-page research note issued to clients, Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf claims the iPod will achieve \'critical mass\' that could lead to a surge in Mac sales if only a nominal fraction of iPod users make a Mac purchase.

Voicing his belief that Apple--despite being tight lipped--will soon launch a flash-based iPod, Wolf wrote, \"Although we expect hard drive players to capture an increasing share of the portable music player market, flash players should dominate the market through 2006.\"

Wolf also described Apple\'s online and brick-&-mortar retail stores as \"the unsung heroes of the Apple story.\" He further predicts that by 2010, iTunes Music Store market share will have fallen to just 2 per cent, but equates this figure to sales worth $800 million per year by then.

Touching on the iPod mini, Wolf said Apple will soon have sufficient margin to reduce the price of the iPod mini from $249 to $199.

He also believes that Apple has successfully transformed itself into a $10 billion company again, predicting Apple to reach 2005 revenues of $11.7 billion, up from the previously assessed $10.2 billion.

\"We’re forecasting iPod sales of 23.5 million units in 2006,\" Wolf added.

Several more interesting tidbits, including a valuation of Apple stock, are mentioned in the lengthy Macworld UK report.