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Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

iPod touch supplies seeing shortages, changes due by September

Stocks of some iPod touch models are starting to run low and may be connected to recent promotional announcements, according to one Wall Street analyst, who also notes that the advent of the $199 iPhone 3G will put pressure on Apple to alter its pricing on the high-end media players in the next few months.

In a report to clients Tuesday, Lehman Brothers analyst Ben Reitzes observes that the 8GB iPod touch is now showing a small but significant delay of 1-2 business days for orders made from Apple's online store, while chain retailer Best Buy has seen reduced supplies of 16GB models at its own locations.

Slight shortages of the 8GB device are likely due to the recent launch of Apple's back-to-school promo, the analyst suggests. The sudden spike in orders for the device, which is given away for free to students when bought with a new Mac, may be surging ahead of supply.

Without the benefit of educational sales, though, Best Buy's stock changes are more difficult to explain. Reitzes offers no immediate prediction but notes that Apple is under pressure to take action on the iPod to realign its prices in the wake of the iPhone 3G.

"We believe Apple will need to reposition the iPod touch product by September now that the iPhone acquisition price is lower," he says in the report. "We expect the iPod touch to experience significant cannibalization from lower-priced iPhones."

No matter its origin, the supply pinch is said to be further evidence that Apple's wider iPod sales are faring better than expected. Current data points to iPod sales climbing by two percent year over year through early June where they were estimated to have dropped by the same amount, according to Reitzes.

This may turn Lehman's estimates of 9.5 million iPods sold in the spring quarter into a "conservative" estimate, he adds.

Even so, that growth may be behind the curve: the overall market grew 12 percent in the same period and was led by gains from Microsoft's Zune as well as unusual improvements by Coby and Philips players.