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Wednesday, March 14, 2007, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

BofA echos reports of flash-based Apple sub-notebook in 2H07

Bank of America Securities this week joined a chorus of other Wall Street firms who say they believe Apple Inc. is working on flash-based notebook and video iPod designs for a release sometime later this year.

The financial reports arrive on the heels two recent AppleInsider pieces which similarly detailed the Cupertino-based company's plans to move into the flash-enabled sub-notebook and flash-based video iPod markets later this year.

"We believe that Apple will introduce a new notebook, with flash based storage in [the second half of 2007]," analyst Keith Bachman wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. "Turn on time will be shorter (with flash), and we imagine the form factor will be thinner, than existing notebooks."

Bachman, who maintains a buy rating shares of the Mac maker, said he does not believe the capacity point for the new Apple notebook has been determined but expects it will end up around around 30GB.

"We don’t yet know if Apple’s potential move into flash based notebooks is an anomaly or a trend, and we need to get a better handle on other vendors’ intentions to assess the impact to [hard disk drive makers] Western Digital Corp. and Seagate Technology," he told clients. "Our initial take on the recent developments is that the impact to the drive market from the encroachment of flash should be very small in 2007, outside of lower potential unit growth in the small form factor drives, such as 1.8 inch."

Similarly, and speaking more broadly, the Bank of America analyst said he is not yet convinced that the notebook market will significantly shift to 30GB flash capacity in the near term, as the target ultra portable notebook market consists of only about 2 percent of total drive units (or about 6 percent - 7 percent of total notebooks). Another major deterrent is Microsoft's Vista operating system, he said, which would require about half the 30GB of drive space for installation compared to the 2GB – 4GB required by Apple's Mac OS X.

"We believe that flash based Vista notebooks would be best suited for business travels that use the network as primary storage, meaning we think the impact to the drive market from the encroachment of flash should be relatively small, though admittedly more of a force than we previously figured," he wrote.

In his note to clients, Bachman also echoed reports of forthcoming flash-based video iPods, which he said will arrive later this year as a complement to the current line of hard disk drive-based models.

Overall, the analyst remains bullish on Apple shares, which have significantly outperformed the Nasdaq stock market over the last three months, rising some 4.2 percent compared to the Nasdaq's 2.7 percent decline.