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Apple laptop demand slows, iPod backlog rises

Demand for Apple laptops has begun to slow this month, according to data shown to AppleInsider. Meanwhile, demand for nearly all versions of the company\'s iPod digital music player appears to be unprecedented.

With a little more than two weeks left in the holiday shopping season, orders to Apple\'s manufacturing facilities for both consumer and professional laptops appear to be on the decline. The company\'s US distribution partners are reporting ample supply of both the iBook G4 and PowerBook G4, and are requesting very few new orders as consumers may be prolonging their purchases in anticipation of Intel-based models early next year.

Supply of both laptop product lines appears uniform, with demand for PowerBooks dwindling slightly faster than iBooks. Sources say the demand data trends for both lines are consistent with products that have begun to approach the end of their life-cycles. This despite Apple refreshing both product lines within the last several months — iBooks in July and PowerBooks in October.

At the same time, demand for the company\'s iPod digital music players appears to be \"staggering,\" with one Apple distributing partner showing backlog of nearly 200,000 total iPods.

Of Apple\'s three iPod models — the shuffle, nano and fifth-generation video iPod — 4GB iPod nano continues to reflect the strongest demand, followed by the 30GB iPod, 60GB iPod, and 2GB iPod nano, respectively.

True to recent analyst reports, the popularity of Apple\'s fifth-generation video iPods appears to be on the rise. Both the 30GB and 60GB models look to be selling equally strong, and not far behind that of the 2GB and 4GB nano. This trend has caused some analysts to raise their earnings estimates for Apple\'s current quarter, as the iPod maker sees higher profit margins from sales of video iPods than it does from sales of the iPod nano.

According to sources, even Apple\'s often discounted iPod shuffle players are in tight supply this month, with one Apple distributor reflecting backlog of over 30,000 of the players. The sub-$100 512MB model remains the hotter ticket, outselling the 1GB model by an approximate 3 to 2 ratio, they say.

The Apple distributors showing large backlog of iPods are typically responsible for supplying Apple Authorized Resellers and not the company\'s retail or online stores. Therefore, analyzing backlog from these distributors may not paint a truly accurate picture of the current flow of iPods.

In recent weeks, analysts have reported that Apple appears to be funneling the majority of its new iPod production to its own stores, while failing to replenish resellers\' diminishing supply of the players. Additionally, checks with Apple\'s own online store show availability of all nano and video iPod models in 1 to 2 business days, suggesting the backlog exists largely within Apple\'s reseller channels.

Estimates for the number of iPods Apple will ship during the three-month period ending December 31st vary amongst analysts. PiperJaffray and American Technology Research analysts are predicting the company will ship shy of 10 million units, while UBS Investment Research believes Apple will sell 11.4 million of the players.