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Monday, August 04, 2008, 07:45 pm PT (10:45 pm ET)

UBS starts Apple coverage with claims of ultraportable Mac delay

A relative newcomer to covering Apple's financial health, UBS Investment Research is beginning its examination of the electronics firm with a positive outlook on the 'stickiness' of the company's brands but also the assertion that it has had to delay shipping a new ultra-mobile Mac.

Analyst Maynard Um echoes analyst reports and leaks that anticipate new Macs (including a revamped MacBook line) and iPods in the second half of 2008 but cites industry checks which point to a "sub-notebook" originally intended for this year but which has allegedly been pushed back to a launch for the first half of 2009.

While the researcher doesn't elaborate on what the mystery Mac would entail, he doesn't see any immediate causes for concern.

"Product slips are typical in the technology industry," Um says.

These checks would also have Apple release additional iPhone colors in time for 2008's holiday season as well a new iPhone the following year, again in the first half.

Much of UBS' outlook, which gives Apple stock a "buy" rating and a target share price of $195, is tied to future products. Um observes that Apple's potential for success hinges in no small part on its ability to generate an attachment to its products, particularly Macs, that isn't really possible with Windows-based systems, where the experience is largely interchangeable between one system and the next.

"We think the Apple 'experience', driven by its ownership of the entire software ecosystem, creates a “sticky” user base that drives recurring hardware revenue," the analyst explains. "Those accustomed to Apple’s 'ease of use' and interfaces are unlikely to purchase a Microsoft-based PC. Rather, we believe these users will be more inclined to purchase another Mac when it’s time for an upgrade, which, in essence, creates a recurring hardware venue for Apple."

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company also helps itself by handling some of the administration that would normally be supplied by another company: since iTunes customers often buy songs from the same company that produces the rest of the software and hardware, this enhances the experience and may give Apple more opportunities for a similar experience in the future.

And while other market observers are concerned at Apple's warnings of a drop in its gross profit margins next quarter through a mystery product transition, Um sees this as a sales grab that should still boost the Mac maker's earnings higher as it both ensures that 'stickiness' and draws in customers through a more competitive price.