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Monday, April 25, 2005, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

PJ on Apple: Increased availability not indicative of lesser demand

Apple's product availability continues to improve with nearly all of the company's offerings now available for shipping on the same business day, research and investment firm PiperJaffray said today.

In a research note released to clients, Senior Research Analyst Gene Munster said, "While critics of the [Apple] story will suggest greater product availability represents a slowing demand environment, we disagree."

Basing some of his analysis on Amazon.com's "Top Seller Lists," Munster said he believes demand for both Macs and iPods remains strong. "Apple is becoming efficient at building products, and for the first time in a year, should have enough product to meet demand," he said.

The analyst notes that Apple's Mac OS X Tiger and Mac OS X Tiger Family Pack software products continue to occupy the top 2 spots on the online retailer's "Electronics Top Seller" list.

Over the past month the number of Apple computers on Amazon's computer-based top 10 list remained flat at 4, while the number of iPods on the MP3 player list dropped from 8 to 4.

In the same research note, Munster also offered his thoughts on cautious guidance recently reported by Synaptics. On Friday the company, which makes scroll wheels for Apple's hard disk drive (HDD)-based iPods, provided guidance slightly below Wall Street estimates for the June quarter based on expectations for softness in its portable music player business.

From a headline perspective, the analyst said Synaptics' comments are negative. "But it is important to keep in mind [...] we do not believe there have been any significant changes to Apple's dominant market share." Additionally, Munster said that "while not a positive," it is reasonable to assume that seasonality will see June quarter iPod unit shipments fall from the levels report in the December and March quarters.

For the June quarter, his firm is modeling HDD-based iPod shipments of 3.3 million, compared to the 3.5 million Apple reported in its recently ended March quarter. "We believe Synaptics will have more bullish comments related to component demand going into the December quarter," Munster said.

PiperJaffray maintains an "Outperform" rating on Apple with a price target of $52 a share.