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Monday, September 11, 2006, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Apple may hit majestic 1M mark for notebook shipments

Although AppleInsider sources had suggested Apple Computer was on track to exceed sales of one million notebooks during its December holiday quarter, one Wall Street analyst is now modeling for it to reach that milestone in the three-month period ending September.

In a research note released earlier on Monday, Credit Suisse analyst Robert Semple increased his quarterly shipment estimate for Apple's 13-inch MacBook consumer notebooks to 775,000 units for the September quarter.

"Our channel checks indicate overall MacBook shipments are tracking at approximately 200,000 ahead of our initial estimate of 580,000," he wrote after returning from a trip the the Far East — the region where all of Apple's notebook models are manufactured.

In addition to the 775,00 MacBook models, the analyst is also expecting sales of approximately 250,000 MacBook Pro professional notebooks, bringing his combined Apple notebook estimate to 1,025,000 units for the September quarter and 2,908,000 for the 2006 fiscal year.

"With the MacBook, Apple added a new color (black) to its product line along with the Intel processor and timed the product launch perfectly to correspond with the critical education buying season and ahead of the back to school period," he wrote in his note to clients. "We believe this combination of timing, improved performance, and the initial stages of the iPod halo effect are playing the most significant roles to date in generating demand for the MacBook."

Looking ahead to the December holiday quarter — the first quarter in Apple's 2007 fiscal year — Semple is expecting the company's notebook shipments to continue their upward trend to 1,075,000 units. His current model estimates Mac notebook shipments to grow by 42 percent during the 2007 fiscal year to 4,125,000, representing over 60 percent of the computers it will sell. By comparison, the analyst is predicting Mac desktop growth of 13 percent to 2,680,000 units during the same time period.

Apple's near 800,000 unit shipment of Mac notebooks during its previous fiscal quarter were a company best, highlighting the second most profitable quarter in its history.

According to data released by market research firm NPD, the Mac maker's share of US notebook market doubled between the months of January and June to 12 percent. The sharp uptick in demand has reportedly sent the company shopping for a third manufacturing partner to help it churn out more systems ahead of the holiday shopping season.

In a report last month, AppleInsider cited insiders who said Apple was on track to break the 1 million unit notebook milestone during its December quarter.