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Apple shipped 7M MacBooks in 2009, now ordering 1M per month

Apple shipped about 7 million MacBooks in all of 2009, and has increased its orders to one supplier to about one million per month — a rate maintained during the typically slow span of January.

Quanta Computer handled most of the orders for Apple's notebooks last year, Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes reported Wednesday. Monthly orders from Apple increased from about 300,000 to 400,000 units a year ago to one million per month at the end of 2009.

"Despite the first quarter being the traditional slow season, Apple is expected to continue placing orders for about one million units to Quanta in January to cover the Lunar New Year period," the report said.

In all, Quanta Computer is expected to ship between 3.5 million and 3.7 million notebooks in the first month of the year. Those company's greatest benefit has come from Apple's purchase of a million MacBooks, the report said.

With Intel's recently debuted line of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, it is possible Apple could introduce new MacBook Pros soon. Apple is expected to hold an event on Jan. 27 to unveil new products.

Earlier Wednesday, a promotional e-mail from chip maker Intel revealed a Core i5-based MacBook Pro. Currently, the portable line sports Intel Core 2 Duo processors. Apple's purchase of a million new notebooks to start the year could also signal an imminent refresh.

In all, 2009 was a breakthrough year for the Mac. Though numbers from the fourth quarter are not yet known, some believe Apple could sell more than 3 million Macs in the holiday season alone.

In October, the entry-level $1,199 MacBook Pro was the top-selling notebook in the U.S. In all, Apple portables took four of the top 10 selling positions in that month for notebook sales, also securing 8th, 9th and 10th place.

Between July and September, Apple had its best quarter ever, recording sales of 3.05 million Macs, representing a 17 percent increase over the year prior. If true, Wednesday's DigiTimes report seems to suggest Apple expects demand for its Macs — particularly the MacBook Pro line — to remain strong in the start of 2010.

One analyst has predicted that Mac sales will grow 26 percent in 2010. Robert Cihra, analyst with Caris & Company, believes Apple will outpace the overall PC market, which is forecast to see a 16 percent year-over-year increase.