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Mac sales better than feared in April following desktop refresh

Sales of Apple's Mac line slipped nearly 2 percent on a year-over-year basis during the month of April while iPod sales fell around 9 percent, though both segments are reportedly as good or better than Wall Street's consensus estimates for the quarter.

NPD data released Monday shows Mac sales for the month of April fell 1.8 percent when compared to April of 2008. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, had been expecting sales to fall off by approximately 10% and therefore saw the results as a positive given uncertainty as to whether Apple could maintain Mac sales strength after pent-up demand for new desktop systems introduced in March began to wane.

Although Munster warned that he'll need to see another two months of data before making a definitive call on Apple's June quarter, he still expects the Cupertino-based company to sell anywhere from 2.1 to 2.3 million Macs, which would represent shrinking yearly Mac unit numbers of anywhere from 16 percent to 8 percent, or a rate that's essentially in line with the Street's expectations of a decline between 10 percent and 7 percent.

Meanwhile, NPD's indication that iPod sales were down 9 percent in April leads Munster to estimate June quarter iPod shipments of approximately 9.5 to 10.5 million units, hovering near Wall Street's consensus. While very likely to be disappointing to a company used to annual growth, the analyst notes this may actually be a positive note for Apple as it allays fears that iPod sales will be particularly weak this spring.

Much of the boost is poised to come from the third-generation iPod shuffle, whose debut in March helped buoy iPod sales during a difficult April. Even so, Munster warns that the $79 player may have simultaneously hurt Apple by lowering the average selling price of an iPod downwards, away from more lucrative iPod nano, classic and touch devices.

The positive news was enough for Piper Jaffray to continue with its high share price target of $180.