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Monday, March 07, 2005, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Merrill Lynch projects sales of 20 million iPods in \'05

In an 8 page research report released to clients on Monday, Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich raised his estimates for iPod unit shipments to 4.5 million this quarter and 20 million for the year. In the report, obtained by AppleInsider, the analyst said he does not see Napster's small rise in absolute number of subscribers — now at 270,000 — as taking share from Apple’s iTunes. He noted that Apple just passed the 300 million mark in song sales faster than his firm had modeled. Milunovich also said that Best Buy reported triple-digit gains in MP3 player sales for its just recorded quarter. "Apple store managers tell us that iPod interest is translating into Mac sales," he said. The analyst believes revenues from Apple's music-related accessories will come in at $82 million for the March quarter. Merrill Lynch reiterate its 'Buy' rating on Apple with a price objective of $51 per share.