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Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

MacBook seeing better response than MacBook Pro

More than half of the specialist resellers recently surveyed by PiperJaffray said they are seeing initial demand for Apple Computer's new MacBook that is greater than the interest they saw with the MacBook Pro when it started shipping in February.

Additionally, almost all of the specialists said initial demand for the chic consumer notebook has been similar or better to what they had been expecting prior to the product launch, analyst Gene Munster said. He believes pent-up demand for the new model has been the primary force behind strong sales.

"Several Apple specialist resellers indicated that they had been telling their customers not to buy iBooks over the last few months prior to the MacBook launch," Munster wrote in a note to clients. "These specialist stores are now seeing the result of this advice come back to them as pent-up demand."

In general, Apple resellers indicated that they are seeing stronger Mac sales during the current (June) quarter than they did during the March quarter. On the other hand, about half of the specialists said they feel iPod demand has slowed over the past two months, despite a small "bounce" in May and June due to graduation gift-giving.

"Our checks [...] reinforce our initial thesis on the June quarter, which assumes that lower-than-expected iPods will be offset by strong Mac sales that result from full availability of the MacBook Pro and the launch of the MacBook," Munster wrote. However, he cautioned that iPod numbers could fall below Wall Street's consensus.

Nevertheless, the analyst expects the Street will shift its focus to Apple's September quarter over the next few weeks. According to Munster, the company appears set for a "breakout" September quarter due to a number of factors such as the educational buying season, full product availability, Boot Camp and the new "switcher" ad campaign.

The analyst maintains a Outperform rating on Apple shares with a price target of $99.