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Thursday, December 07, 2006, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

Apple well prepared this holiday shopping season

Having learned from past miscues, Apple Computer appears to have more aptly prepared itself for this year's critical holiday buying season, research and investment firm PiperJaffray said Thursday.

In a side note to clients, Sr. Research Analyst Gene Munster said Apple is showing that its learned to better anticipate seasonal patterns and "is poised to monetize iPod and Mac demand" better this year than it did in the prior two years.

"While some may see this as a sign that demand is lower, we believe Apple has simply improved its ability to anticipate and avoid constraints during peak buying times," he wrote.

Historically, Apple has been constrained by supply during the holiday shopping season with long product lead-times. But data taken from the current month shows the supply ramp improving, Munster said.

While the analyst acknowledges that Apple "will likely always struggle to find the balance of supplying hot new products just after they launch," it's doing a better job as a company in anticipating seasonal buying patterns and ramping iPod and Mac production accordingly.

According to the analyst's checks, lead-times are averaging 24 hours across all iPod and Mac products this month — down from a 1-2 days delay average in 2005, and an average 6 day delay in 2004 (5 days for iPods, 7 days for Macs).

Munster maintains an "Outperform" rating on shares of Apple with a price target of $99.