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Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

PiperJaffray: new Apple products positive, but not too significant

Following Apple's media event this afternoon, analysts for research and investment firm PiperJaffray said the new product introduced at the event show continued innovation, but are not likely to offer a material additive to expectations for the company's 2006 fiscal year.

"[Apple] announced two new/updated products, both of which were primarily expected by the Street," analyst Gene Munster wrote. "Our take on the event is that the release of these new products is a positive, given we did not have them factored into our model, but the Street was generally looking for more product releases, or at least more significant products to be announced today."

While the analyst believes the iPod Hi-Fi and Mac mini will be strong products for Apple, he said neither are likely to materially impact his firm's model for fiscal year 2006.

Reflecting on the new Mac mini product line, Munster said the integration of Front Row is another step towards making the compact computer a home media center hub.

"While the new Mac mini can be hooked into a television, we believe the eventual integration of AirPort for wireless video transfer will provide Apple with all the pieces to make a push into the living room," he wrote. "Looking at the overall Mac line, with the Intel based Mac mini, half of all Macs offered by Apple now have an Intel processor."

Munster also commented on the iPod Hi-Fi boombox, which he noted was also "generally expected by Apple rumor sites and the Street after several articles came out indicating the iPod Hi-Fi was coming soon."

The analyst pointed out that the $349 iPod Hi-Fi is unique in that it features a simplistic remote, but is priced higher than other iPod speaker systems in the market, which typically retail between $200-$300.

"Between the iPod Hi-Fi and some new iPod cases, it appears Apple is trying to directly capture more of the revenue that is being generated by the "iPod economy" that the company has created," Munster concluded.

Nevertheless, PiperJaffray maintained its "Outperform" rating on Apple shares with a price target of $103.

Note: The new Mac mini does include built-in AirPort wireless capabilities, contrary to comments made by the analyst. It appears that he is referring to an AirPort base station that can accept wireless video data in addition to audio, hence allowing video content to be broadcast wireless from a Mac to a TV.