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Friday, May 04, 2007, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Mac users' Web 2.0 affinity seen driving Apple share gains

Investment analysts at ThinkEquity Partners LLC are reiterating their Buy rating on shares of Apple this week, citing recent studies that show Mac users are twice as active in the Web 2.0 ecosystem and purchase better technology than their PC counterparts.

"Apple is, in our opinion, a software company that manifests itself through hardware," lead analyst Jonathan Hoopes wrote in a report to clients on Friday.

He pointed out that the latest survey results from Net Applications indicates the company's OS market share jumped to 6.21 percent (or up 38 percent) from April 2006. The Mac maker's Safari browser share, according to the same firm, also increase 48 percent to 4.59 percent year-over-year during the first quarter.

"This Mac OS market share is higher than our estimate of an approximate 5 percent
market share of the total PC market," the analyst told clients. "However, Net Applications' survey is based on usage, and the results appear to indicate that Mac users spend more time online and/or visit more Websites than Windows users per session."

In his note, Hoopes also pointed to a recent analysis of a Forrester study conducted by Ars Technica, which found that over 20 percent of Mac users, or twice as many as Dell users, are "Creators" involved in the production of Web 2.0 content.

The study also concluded that Mac users are also more likely to be critics, spectators and participants in social groups. In all, the study found that only 35 percent of Mac users are "inactive", versus inactivity levels around 55 percent for Dell users, who are also less likely to be involved in the Web 2.0 ecosystem.

"The results support the idea that a higher percentage of Mac users overlap with the younger Web 2.0 crowd," wrote Hoopes. "This group has higher demand for computer functionality and performance, and are more likely than average PC users to purchase better technology to support their activities."

The ThinkEquity analyst said it's his opinion that Apple has established a premium image with a less price-sensitive group.

"While a strong equity market is helping, we believe Apple's recent share price performance is a good indication that the strong Apple brand is poised to experience further share gains and drive increased 'earnings power,'" he wrote.

Hoopes reiterated his Buy rating and $130 price target on shares of the Cupertino-based firm.