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Apple boosts iPod orders for current quarter, trims Macs slightly

Apple has increased orders for most of the members of its iPod family over the past month or so while trimming Mac orders only slightly — a sign the company's business is standing its own amid a weakening economy, one Wall Street analyst says.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger in a note to clients Wednesday said his latest round of checks into the Apple supply chain show the electronics maker to have revised its second-quarter (ending June) iPod build numbers positively by 15 percent since his last check in late March. Looking ahead, he now sees iPod builds growing 35 percent quarter-over-quarter.

"We see greater Shuffle, Classic, and Nano, builds slightly offset by fewer Touch builds, with greater Shuffle builds accounting for most of the increased iPod builds.," the analyst wrote.

Though he did not offer an explanation for the decline in iPod touch orders, some consumers may be delaying new purchases of the touch-screen players as they await pricing details of the next-generation iPhone, which will in all likelihood include all of the functionality of the iPod touch.

Berger's checks also show Apple have cut its second quarter iPhone build volumes by less than 10 percent versus checks from late March. Going forward, however, he expects iPhone build volumes to ramp considerably by about 250 percent to 3 million units, as Apple builds 3G iPhones ahead of its likely June launch.

"Apple's June, September, and December total 3G order fell by 500,000 units versus our prior checks to 11 million units, although our contacts still say Apple will likely reduce this forecast over time," he wrote. "This suggests Apple could sell 11 million iPhones in total in 2008, including its March actual shipments."

Meanwhile, Apple's second quarter Mac builds are said to have fallen only modestly since Berger last checked, with the most pronounced cut affecting the company's more costly professional MacBook Pro line.

"Apple used the seasonally slow March quarter to replenish inventory of notebooks, and to build the initial wave of MacBook Air products, thus making second quarter build comparisons difficult," he explained. "For the second quarter, we see total PC build volumes declining about 15 percent sequentially due to Apple's inventory build in 1Q."

"Big picture," he added, "these checks show that consumer spending, at least at Apple, has not meaningfully deteriorated over the past two months."