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Citigroup: checks point to 3G iPhone within four months

Following overseas meetings with members of the Taiwanese PC and consumer electronics supply chain, analysts for investment bank Citigroup said they have high convictions that Apple intends to roll out a 3G iPhone during the second quarter of the year.

"Several sources confirmed the introduction of a new 3G iPhone during [the second calendar quarter]," analyst Rich Garder wrote in an industry news flash bulletin distributed to clients on Tuesday. "While iPhone and iPod units may disappoint again during [the first calendar quarter], we remain comfortable with our above-consensus EPS estimate thanks to solid PC momentum and sharp declines in DRAM and NAND pricing."

The Citigroup analyst also noted that macroeconomic concerns appear to have had no impact on industry-wide notebook build orders, which remain consistent with normal seasonal patterns.

He added that, "Several vendors, including HP and Acer, appear poised to introduce new low-priced notebook models in [the second calendar quarter] with retail prices as low as $300-$400."

Separately on Tuesday, Caris & Co. analyst Shebly Seyrafi issued a note to clients maintaining his Above Average rating on Apple but cutting his price target on shares of the company from $165 to $155, reflecting lower iPhone and iPod orders, as well as perceived weakness in consumer spending.

He also issued reductions to both his fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009 iPhone and iPod unit estimates. iPhone expectations were cut from 11.7 million and 22.3 million to 8.9 million and 17.7 million, respectively, while iPod units were trimmed from 54.6 million and 61.2 million to 52.1 million and 57.3 million.

For calendar year 2008, Seyrafi still expects Apple to meet its goal of selling 10 million iPhones, but said it's unlikely that the company will apply any sizable near-term pressure to the industry's more established players.

"This Thursday [...] Apple will be discussing its SDK (software development kit) roadmap and will be discussing some enterprise features. The SDK may allow more enterprise applications (from the likes of IBM, Oracle, and Saleforce.com, for example) to be used on the iPhone," he wrote. "Still, we think that the enterprise smartphone market will, for the foreseeable future, be dominated by RIMM and Nokia."