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Apple may debut New iPods 'as early as June' (Updated)

Apple Computer could launch a new iPod product "as early as June" to help stimulate demand and market share, Banc of America Securities said today.

The research and investment firm predicts iPod unit shipment will decrease to 4.8 million units in the fiscal third quarter ending June, down slightly from 5.3 million units in the second quarter.

In a research report released to clients today and obtained by AppleInsider, analyst Keith Bachmanin noted that Synaptics, which provides components for Apple’s hard disk drive (HDD)-based iPods, reported record third quarter results which it attributed in part to strength in the portable music player market.

However, Synaptics is guiding flat results for next quarter, saying they are seeing softness in their customers’ forecasts for the portable music player market.

But the analyst said his firm's model already incorporates some seasonal softness for the iPod. "With flat [revenue] guidance from Apple’s last conf call, we imagine that investors are looking to flat to slightly down MP3 sales, and strength in CPUs," he said.

Still, Bachmanin said Apple could possibly post higher iPod sales than its supply and manufacturer partners would lead analysts to believe. "We still think the Street is unclear on production levels and inventory pull compared to sell through," he said. The analyst believes Apple is likely sitting on some inventory of raw material, and both work-in-progress and finished goods that wouldn't be reflected in its books.

"We see no reason to change our Apple EPS estimate for this year of $1.29, and we maintain our Buy rating," Bachmanin said.

In the same research report, Banc of America Securities also said that flash memory-based players are growing faster than HDD-based players. Synaptics, which only deals in HDD players, saw its stock tumble $3.00 or approximately 14% in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.