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Friday, October 22, 2010, 12:55 pm PT (03:55 pm ET)

Apple's new MacBook Airs predicted to sell 700K during holidays

Apple's new 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Air models are expected to be a major boon for Mac sales this holiday season, with one firm forecasting sales of 700,000 in the quarter, and a Wall Street analyst anticipating gross margins of about 32 percent.

The research department of Concord Securities has reportedly predicted that the MacBook Air will account for 17 percent of an estimated 4.1 million Mac shipments this fall. In addition, Mingchi Kuo, vice president of the firm's research department, believes the new, smaller model with an 11.6-inch screen will account for 60 percent of MacBook Air sales.

Sales of 4.1 million Macs in the quarter would be yet another record for Apple. Just this week, the company revealed it sold 3.89 million Macs in the previous quarter, the best three-month frame for the company yet.

Apple's Mac business was on display this week at the "Back to the Mac" event, where the new MacBook Airs with instant-on capabilities were unveiled. The notebooks start at $999 for the 11.6-inch model.

Analyst Brian Marshall of Gleacher & Company said in a note to investors this week that he believes Apple's new MacBook Air models carry a gross margin profile of greater than 30 percent. If true, that would be greater than his estimated blended margins of more than 20 percent for the rest of Apple's notebook line.

Marshall estimated that the blended gross margins for the new MacBook Air models will be 32.1 percent. He sees the low-end $999 model with a total cost to Apple of $718, while the high-end 13.3-inch model with 256GB of storage retailing for $1,599 likely costs Apple $1,007.40.

Marshall said he has not yet changed his forecast for just over 4 million Macs in the December quarter, though he added the new, lower priced MacBook Air models could add a "kicker" in the future. Gleacher & Company has maintained its price target of $355 for AAPL stock.