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New shuffle, cheaper iPhone and MacBooks seen in 2009

FBR Capital Markets said Wednesday that it believes that Apple is gearing up to release several new products during the first half of 2009, including a new version of the iPod shuffle and cheaper versions of its flagship iPhone and MacBook offerings.

"Our contacts see a lower-cost version of the iPhone, possibly in mid [second quarter]," analyst Craig Berger wrote in a research report to clients. "Apparently, Qualcomm is replacing Infineon as the baseband supplier in this device. Some call this device the 'iPhone Nano'; whatever one calls it, we believe this device is on its way."

The analyst also anticipates the release of two other low-cost products from the Cupertino-based company by the time summer rolls around. The first, he said, is a "new and smaller version" of the iPod Shuffle that may appear some time during the first quarter. The other devices is a "cheaper MacBook," though the analyst does not believe the new model will qualify as a netbook.

Berger, who sports a questionable track record with his Apple-related predictions, added in his report that his contacts indicate that fourth quarter iPhone production fell 53 percent sequentially, which is "worse than last month's check of down 48 percent sequentially."

"Note that we do not believe our quarterly production build volume comparisons are highly correlated with actual sales of these devices by Apple," he said. "Instead, we like to track this data for a directional/momentum read into chip suppliers [...] and to ascertain whether supply chain restocking needs to occur."

Therefore, the analyst said its possible that consumers could have purchased a theoretical maximum of 10 million iPhones during the soon-to-end fourth quarter of 2008, assuming Apple sold through its inventory of more than 2 million devices that remained in its channel at the end of the third quarter.

Separately, AppleInsider has picked up on some chatter of a new iPod shuffle that would be incredibly flat and shaped similar to a credit card with just enough thickness for a headphone jack at one end. However, AppleInsider has been unable to confirm these reports with any degree of certainty. As such, readers should treat this information as nothing more than a rumor.