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Monday, August 25, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Apple's Sept quarter Mac and iPod sales ahead of estimates

After extrapolating just-released NPD market research data on Mac and iPod sales for the month of July, investment bank Piper Jaffray is out with a call suggesting that Apple is on track to best Street estimates on both fronts for its September quarter.

Specifically, the preliminary data for July — the first month of the quarter — implies that the Cupertino-based company is on its way to selling anywhere between 2.7 million and 2.9 million Macs, analyst Gene Munster advised clients in a research brief on Monday.

That range would imply yearly Mac growth of anywhere from 25 percent to 29 percent, compared to Street consensus estimates that have been hovering around 23 percent growth based on expected sales of 2.6 million Macs.

Even in light of the new data, Munster said he'll remain "conservative" with a 2.55 million Mac number for the September quarter "based on uncertainty around the launch date of new portables late in the quarter."

Separately, the analyst's number crunching on July iPod sales figures has him estimating September quarter sales that will range anywhere from 10.7 million units to 11.2 million units, representing yearly growth of between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Again, the midrange of those figures — or approximately 11 million units — would put Apple on pace to cruise past Munster's in-line-with-consensus estimates of 10.8 million total units for the quarter.

"Given concerns regarding iPod weakness, we believe the segment's outperformance relative to typical seasonality is significant," he wrote.

Should Apple achieve the high end of unit sales suggested by the latest NPD date (2.9 million Macs, 11 million iPods), with added sales of 4.1 million iPhones and a gross margin of 32 percent, he estimates the company would see per share earnings of $1.19 on revenue of $8.5 billion. That compares to Street estimates of $1.11 on $8.08 billion and management's guidance of $1.00 on $7.8 billion.

Monday's NPD figures stand as the second batch of data in less than a week to suggest Apple may be flirting with the possibility of its first ever 3.0 million Mac quarter. On Thursday, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky cited proprietary data in predicting the company was on track to report year-over-year growth of 44 percent to 3.04 million units for the September quarter.

Should Apple miss the 3 million mark, it could still boast bragging rights should it manage to ship 2.896 million systems in the September quarter, which would signify the first 10 million Mac fiscal year in the company's history.

For his part, Munster remains bullish on Apple with a Buy rating and $250 price target.