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Monday, October 31, 2005, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

iPod demand rising heading into November

With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, orders to Apple's overseas manufacturing facilities show strong demand for all three members of the company's industry leading iPod digital music player family.

Data seen by AppleInsider reveals that even Apple's slightly-dated iPod shuffle music players are seeing an increase in orders, especially the 512MB model which now sells for less than $90 at some online discount shops. The findings corroborate a recent analyst report which suggested that shuffle sales may prove to be better than expected this holiday quarter.

Meanwhile, Apple's ultra-thin iPod nano player was backlogged by over 100,000 units at one of the company's two primary US-based distributors late last week. Based on order data, it appears that nano demand is increasing week-to-week. Orders for the 2GB model also appears to be trailing the 4GB by only a small margin.

What's unclear is whether the nano backlog is a result of a component shortage, the beginning of big box retail sell-in ahead of the holiday season, or a combination of the two. Recent rumblings have suggested that Apple could be facing an iPod nano component shortage unrelated to flash-memory, though the rumors remain unconfirmed.

Orders for the company's new fifth-generation iPod also appear strong, with one Apple distributor showing backlog of nearly 50,000 units last week. While black-colored models remain scarce, Apple authorized resellers such as Amazon.com are now showing availability of both the 30GB and 60GB models in white, suggesting that supply of the players is improving gradually.

Apple's US distributors Ingram Micro and TechData help supply the wide majority of its authorized resellers, which are separate from the company's online and brick-and-mortar retail stores. Therefore the two distributors represents only a fraction of iPod orders and sales.

If Apple is able to avoid or sidestep component shortages and manufacturing issues, it should have little problem shattering Wall Street's iPod estimates for the current quarter, which hover around 10M units.

Reliable sources in the Far East have told AppleInsider that Apple's manufacturing ramp figures for both the nano and fifth-generation iPod video "continue to blow minds," with the company at one time preparing for the prospect of selling nearly 4 million nanos a month through December.

However, it's unclear if growing concerns over the quality of the iPod nano's polycarbonate plastic coating will negatively affect the overall sale potential of the players this holiday season.