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Piper: Apple not expected to enter new product categories in 2011


With the calendar turning over to 2011, investment firm Piper Jaffray has made a prediction that Apple will improve its existing line of products, but will not enter any into any new categories this year.

Analyst Gene Munster said in a note to investors Monday that Apple's story in 2011 will likely be a continuation of the company's existing product lines, including the Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod. Instead of entering new markets, he believes Apple will focus on new versions of its current major products.

Munster sees the launch of a Verizon-compatible CDMA iPhone as a 95 percent probability in the March quarter of 2011. He also expects to see a fifth-generation iPhone with near-field communication technology launch in the summer, with a new iPod touch offering similar e-wallet-style capabilities soon after.

He also said there is a 90 percent chance that Apple will debut cloud-based iTunes streaming services this year. The analyst also forecast an 80 percent chance that the iPad is offered with subsidies from wireless carriers, and a new iPad will launch in spring 2011.

Apple, of course, made a splash entering the tablet market with an announcement in early 2010. The iPad went on to become one of the company's hottest devices, quickly outselling the Mac.

Other major product launches in 2011 already announced by Apple include this week's launch of the Mac App Store on Thursday, and the release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in the summer. As usual, Munster believes Apple will refresh its iPod lineup in the fall, and will also issue redesigned MacBook Pros in the first half of 2011, with redesigned iMacs in the second half of the year.

Beyond 2011, Munster has stuck by his prediction that Apple will launch an Internet-connected television set in the next 2 to 4 years. As he said repeatedly throughout 2010, he believes an Apple-branded HDTV could launch as early as 2012.

"While Apple's commitment to the living room remains a 'hobby,' we continue to believe the company will enter the TV market with a full focus, as an all-in-one Apple television could move the needle when connected TVs proliferate," he said.

"Moreover, in terms of markets that would be entirely new categories for Apple and could move the needle, we believe the television market makes the most sense."

Piper Jaffray has maintained its overweight rating for AAPL stock, as well as its 12-month price target of $438.