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Mac sales up 35% in May, suggest no cannibalization from iPad

The NPD Group on Tuesday released its retail sales data for the month of May, revealing that Mac sales increased 35 percent for Apple and suggesting that the launch of the iPad will not slow their growth.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray revealed the new NPD domestic retail data, which suggests that Apple will sell between 3.1 million and 3.2 million total Macs in the June quarter. That's about in line with Wall Street's consensus expectation of 3.1 million.

The early NPD data suggests that Apple will see year-over-year Mac unit growth of between 19 percent and 23 percent, better than Wall Street's expectation of 19 percent year-over-year growth.

"This is the second data point that suggests Apple is not seeing much cannibalization in its Mac business (from the iPad)," Munster wrote. But it's a different story with the iPod.

The latest NPD data shows that iPod sales are down 13 percent year over year, which is a decrease greater than the 9 percent Munster had forecast. However, international iPod sales are a larger mix than international Mac sales, so NPD data has a slightly greater margin of error.

Munster said that the data suggests that the iPad is slightly cannibalizing Mac sales. But given the fact that the iPad has an average selling price four times higher than the iPod, he sees it as a net positive for Apple.

"We believe in the long run Mac cannibalization will exist, but will be minimal," he said. "Apple has successfully limited the iPad functionality to primarily content consumption vs. content creation on a Mac. And relative to the iPod, the physical size of an iPad provides a meaningfully different value proposition (portability vs. screen size)."

NPD's domestic data for April, released earlier this year, found that Mac sales were up 39 percent year over year in the first month of the June quarter. The numbers have remained consistent, putting Apple on pace to sell between 3.1 million and 3.2 million Macs in the three month frame.

If those numbers hold, they would exceed last quarter when Apple sold 2.94 million Macs to start 2010. But those sales were achieved without a new product launch.

Early last quarter, Apple launched new MacBook Pros, equipped with Intel's latest Core i7 and Core i5 processors in the high-end 15- and 17-inch models, as well as a refresh to the 13-inch MacBook Pro adding a Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics processor.

Then in May, the company also updated its low-end $999 MacBook, giving it, too, GeForce 320M graphics. And in June, the company redesigned its Mac mini, adding an HDMI port, a built-in SD Card slot, and giving it a unibody enclosure with a built-in power supply.