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Needham opens coverage of Apple with "buy" rating

Needham & Co has reinitiated its investment coverage of Apple, noting that the Mac maker has moved past the "old" iPod to prosper with the iPhone and the Mac.

Becoming the latest financial institution to track Apple in its portfolio, Needham & Co on Thursday issued its first note to investors analyzing the electronics giant courtesy of analyst Charlie Wolf.

The report issues a strong buy recommendation based on Apple's multi-pronged approach to its products and the underlying potential of the iPhone. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm is no longer dependent on either the Mac or the iPod alone to succeed and is currently enjoying success on multiple fronts.

The iPod is "yesterday's news," Wolf says, referring to its now established position in the market. "Now the Apple story is all about the Mac and the iPhone."

He especially singles out Apple's inaugural cellular device, noting that its heavily software-based platform may be the key to its long-term success. As Apple can continually upgrade the iPhone without replacing the device itself, the handheld may remain the "gold standard" for as long as Apple wants, the analyst told clients.

Mac sales have also been helped significantly by the ability to run Windows and may help Apple more than double its world marketshare from 3 to 7 percent sometime in the next decade, he added.

Needham has set its 12-month share target at $235.