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Apple expected to sell 2.7 million Macs in fall quarter

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reports Apple is on track to sell between 2.7 and 2.8 million Macs in its fourth fiscal quarter, based on retail data released by NPD Group.

NPD has pegged Apple's July sales as a 2% rise over last year, which Munster says implies 3% to 7% growth for the full quarter when factoring in back to school sales, according to a report published by Fortune.

"With just one month of data," Munster wrote, "it is way too early to make a call on the quarter given ~50% of Mac sales in the quarter typically happen in the month of Sept." Munster also noted that Apple's international sales are growing faster than US sales for both Macs and iPods. NPD only reports on domestic retail sales. The end of the recession in Germany, France and Japan will no doubt help boost Apple's sales internationally as well.

Despite the recession's assault on retail sales over the last year, Apple managed to grow its July 2008 sales by 43% over 2007, making the additional 2% growth this year indicative of continued, if slowing, growth throughout the global downturn. Average selling prices of Macs was down 4% in July over June 2008; Munster expects ASP figures for the entire fall quarter to be down 6% over the previous summer quarter.

iPods turning into iPhone sales

Sales of iPods are expected to continue to recede, with July's unit sales down by 17% over the previous year. The typical back to school bundling promotion Apple runs, offering free iPods with new Macs, should boost iPod sales over the end of the quarter, bringing quarterly sales to just 5% to 14% less than last year.

Sales of iPods began to plateau last year, with only slight growth over 2007. This year, sales of iPods have actually slipped slightly, with summer quarter sales falling from 11 million in 2008 to 10.2 million this year.

Apple executives have acknowledged that they see the market for traditional MP3 players continuing to level off, and have made efforts to replace those sales with iPhone and iPod touch models. During the same summer quarter, for example, iPhone sales jumped from 717 thousand to 5.2 million, resulting in a large net gain of combined iPod and iPhone sales overall, from 11.7 million in 2008 to 15.4 million this year.

Rapid growth of the iPhone overseas is also contributing to this "sales cannibalism," which results in allowing Apple to migrate MP3 users to its iPhone software platform and gives the company even more opportunity to sell Macs and its related services such as MobileMe.

Strong international growth in the iPhone was highlighted recently by the report that the iPhone 3GS was the top rated phone in Japan for the month of July, erasing any remaining worries that the Japanese market might "hate" the iPhone.