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Piper Jaffray weighs in on iPod sales, new iMacs, other rumors

In a pair of research notes released Wednesday, analysts for investment banking firm Piper Jaffray offered an update on Apple's June quarter iPod shipments while also commenting on expectations for next-generation iMacs, iPhone availability, and the prospect of an Apple navigation system.

June iPod sales tracking around 9.5 - 10.0 million

"Our analysis of iPod unit data from NPD for the month of May leads us to a preliminary iPod approximation of between 9.5 million and 10.0 million units for the June 2007 quarter," analyst Gene Munster wrote in the first of two notes.

Munster has been modeling the Cupertino-based company to sell approximately 10.5 million of the digital media players during the quarter, slightly above Wall Street consensus estimates of 9.8 million.

"The 9.5 million -10.0 million unit approximation is based on various assumptions and is an extrapolation of two months of data," he explained. "When the third month of data is released, our analysis will likely lead to a slightly different iPod unit figure than what our analysis suggests based on the second month of data, so we believe investors should supplement this data point with other information."

New iMacs

Meanwhile, Munster in a second report echoed several pieces of original AppleInsider content published over past week, including predictions for Apple's next-generation iMacs and AT&T's retail plans for next week's iPhone launch.

"As we anticipated, the redesigned iMacs were not announced at last week's WWDC keynote," the analyst wrote. "However, we continue to expect iMacs with a new form factor by September."

Munster, referencing the MacRumors buyers guide, added that it has been nearly 300 days since Apple has had anything to say about its top-selling desktop system, well beyond the average 168 days between previous upgrade cycles.

iPhone Availability

Commenting on next week's iPhone launch, the Piper Jaffray analyst advised clients that AT&T stores will close temporarily around 4:00 p.m. on the 29th to prepare for the 6:00 p.m. launch, then re-open at 6:00 p.m.

"The company is anticipating long lines and large crowds, and will use the two hours to prepare accordingly," he wrote. "It is important to note that by the end of 2007 we expect iPhone availability to expand to about 30 percent of AT&T's 8,000 franchised outlets."

iPhone in Europe

At the same time, however, Munster shed some doubt on Apple's ability to make good on its commitment to roll-out the handset in Europe later this year, explaining that the launch "may be delayed."

"European wireless carriers are citing strict terms of the partnership with Apple," he explained. "To a certain degree, this sheds an interesting light on the AT&T pact, implying that it is favorable towards Apple."

The analyst speculated that Apple's agreement with AT&T may involve handset subsidies and a generous revenue sharing plan.

Apple Navigation System

Finally, Munster gave some attention to recent rumblings of an Apple-designed in-car navigation system, which were first published by an overseas gadget publication.

"While this seems far-fetched, the device could simply be an iPhone equipped with GPS, which is a feature we expect in 2009," he told clients. "Additionally, in recent comments [Apple chief executive] Steve Jobs has placed particular emphasis on the iPhone's Google Maps features."

Munster maintains an "Outperform" rating on shares of Apple with a $160 price target.