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Online data indicates Apple brand still growing

An increasing product presence on Internet retailer top seller lists and rising Web site traffic rankings are evidence that Apple Computer\'s brand is growing amongst consumers, analysts for PiperJaffray said this week.

In a note to clients, analyst Gene Munster revisited data from his Amazon Top Seller list ratings, which he tracks every month or so. This month, he notes that Apple\'s iPod dominates\'s Top Seller List for portable MP3 Players and All Electronics, holding all 10 spots on the Top 10. This number is up from 8 since the analyst last recorded data on March 1.

\"We believe the increase is noteworthy given that the last time we recorded 10 iPods in the Top 10 occurred on Sept. 9, 2005, prior to the holiday shopping season,\" Munster told clients. He is also convinced that the iPod is continuing to gain market share, noting the players recent rise to 77.9 percent share in March, up from 76.8 percent in Feb, according to NPD data.

At the same time, the number of Macs in the Top 10 and Top 20 decreased to 8 and 9 from 9 and 11, respectively. \"The 8 in the Top 10 remains at the upper end of all observations since we began tracking the Top Sellers,\" the analyst wrote. \"For a point of reference, there were 5 Macs in the Top 10 one year ago. We believe that increase is primarily due to the recent launch of the new Intel based iMac and MacBook Pros.\"

Munster is also using Web traffic information from to gauge the trend in interest of Apple\'s online sales business. Alexa tracks several data points such as \"Reach\" and \"Page Views\" which are then used to determine an overall \"Traffic Rank.\"

\" has had a significant increase in \'Reach\' over the past quarter, which we believe is mainly the result of Apple\'s new product launches at Macworld on January 10,\" the analyst said. \"Apple\'s 3 month average traffic rank of 45 on April 20 is the best value that we have observed for since we\'ve tracked the Alexa data.\"

The company\'s traffic rank was 47 on March 1 (lower rank is better).

\"Similarly, Apple\'s 3-month average reach of 13,255 on April 20 is the second best value that has been observed (high was on 13,300 on March 1),\" Munster wrote. \"While we realize web \'traffic rankings\' and \'reach\' are not perfect measures of actual sales, we believe they are a decent indicator of overall mindshare.\"

By the end of 2006, PiperJaffray expects Apple to have shipped over 85 million iPods, providing the company with a greater scope of awareness for various product \"halo effects.\"

The firm maintains an Outperform rating on Apple shares with a price target of $99.