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Monday, May 17, 2010, 10:45 am PT (01:45 pm ET)

NPD data shows Apple on pace to sell 3.2M Macs in June quarter

Sales of the Mac are tracking stronger than Wall Street expectations, with Apple on pace to sell as many as 3.2 million computers during the June quarter, according to new data from NPD.

NPD unit sales for April — the first month of the June quarter — show that domestic Mac sales were up 39 percent year over year, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. He now believes Mac sales will grow over 2009 between 19 percent and 23 percent.

At the current pace, Apple would sell between 3.1 million and 3.2 million Macs in the June quarter, while Wall Street consensus is 3.1 million, or 19 percent. The NPD numbers suggest that the April launch of the iPad had a minimal effect on Mac sales.

"April NPD data gives us the first sign of the degree to which the iPad cannibalizes iPod or Mac sales," Munster wrote. "From the early NPD data, it appears that the iPad has a minimal cannibalization impact on Mac sales, and it could be slightly cannibalizing iPod sales."

He noted that Apple has "successfully limited" the functionality of the iPad to ensure that it serves primarily as a content consumption device. That means consumers will still have to turn to the Mac for content creation.

But in Munster's eyes, the cannibalization of iPod sales is a good thing: The iPad has an average selling price four times higher than the iPod, and it is expected to have a significant profit margin, making any consumer transition a positive for Apple's bottom line.

NPD


NPD data shows that iPod sales were down 17 percent year over year in April, which leads to an estimate of 9 million to 10 million unit sales for the April quarter. The April sales were lower than Wall Street expectations, but represent only stateside iPod purchases. Munster noted that international iPod sales tend to have a larger mix than international Mac sales.

If Munster's projections for Mac sales are accurate, Apple would exceed last quarter, when the company sold 2.94 million Macs in the three months to start 2010. Those Mac sales were achieved without a new product launch.

This quarter, Apple launched new MacBook Pros, equipped with Intel's latest Core i7 and Core i5 processors in the high-end 15- and 17-inch models. Apple also refreshed the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics processor.

Apple is expected to make further improvements to its Mac line very soon, with a leak over the weekend from Vietnam revealing a 13-inch MacBook refresh. The new hardware, which was displayed in its final packaging, included a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, as well as the Nvidia 320M GPU.

There have also been rumors of a MacBook Air upgrade forthcoming. And the Mac Pro desktop is expected to be upgraded by June with a new model sporting Intel's latest Westmere-based hexacore chips, for a total of 12 processing cores.