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Monday, April 21, 2008, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Apple, Best Buy partner in China; NPD on iPods; PayPal clarifies

Apple and speciality electronics retailer Best Buy have extended their partnership to the Far East. Meanwhile, the latest data from NPD suggests second-quarter iPod sales remained relatively flat. And PayPal now says that it does not intend to block Safari users from its ecommerce service.

Apple, Best Buy partner in China

Apple's first store within a store boutique in mainland China has cropped up at the Best Buy store in Shanghai's Xuhui area, ChinaTechNews.com is reporting.

Zeng Yaozu, marketing director of Best Buy China, told the online publication that the Xuhui store was the retailer that sold the most Apple products in China in 2007, and thus Apple's decision to form a closer bond.

The embedded Apple store is said to span about 50 square meters, displaying over 60 kinds of Apple computers and branded accessories. Apple will also send two technical consultants to staff the store and provide sales support, according to the report.

The move is the latest extension of a multi-year relationship between Apple and Best Buy that has since led to plans for approximately 600 store-within-a-store Apple boutiques within US-based Best Buy locations.

iPod units remain flat

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster on Monday analyzed all three months of NPD data for Apple's recently-ended March quarter and found that it now suggests total iPod units of 10 million to 10.5 million, slightly below Wall Street consensus estimates of 10.6 million units.

Munster said that should Apple hit the mid-point of the 10 - 10.5 million figure when it reports earnings on Wednesday, it would represent just a 3 percent yearly decline in sales.

"We see this data point as a slight positive, given recent Street chatter of a very weak iPod number for the quarter and we note that our new range is up slightly from a month ago, likely due to the iPod shuffle price cut on 2/19, leading to a more back-end-loaded quarter for iPod units," he wrote.

PayPal: No plans to block Safari

A representative for PayPal on Friday said the ecommerce firm is developing features to block customers from logging into PayPal when using obsolete browsers on outdated or unsupported operating systems, but has no intention of blocking Safari as a company white paper seemed to imply.

"An example of such a browser/OS combination might be, for example, Internet Explorer 4 running on Windows 98," said spokesperson Michael Oldenburg. "In doing so, we better protect our customers from viewing a phishing site through their browser. We have absolutely no intention of blocking current versions of any browsers, including Apple’s Safari, from our website."