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Domestic data shows Apple's Mac sales up 5% in March quarter

The latest U.S. sales data from NPD suggests Apple's Mac sales were up 5 percent year over year during the March quarter, a number lower than some have expected.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray believes the numbers suggest Apple could miss expectations on Wall Street when it reports official Mac quarterly sales during its earnings call next Tuesday. Investors generally expect Apple sold 4.3 million units during the three-month period, representing a 14 percent year-over-year increase.

Mac sales may end up lower than expected because Apple has not issued a meaningful refresh for its core MacBook Pro and iMac lineups in over a year. Munster believes those two product lines combine to account for 50 percent of Mac sales.

Given the latest NPD data for the March quarter, Munster expects Apple will report Mac sales in the range of 4.1 million to 4.4 million, representing 9 percent to 17 percent year-over-year growth, respectively.

But Mac revenue is expected to be just 15 percent of Apple's overall revenue in the March quarter. Because of that, Munster believes that any Mac "softness" reported by Apple will be offset by strong iPhone and iPad sales.

Looking forward, Munster expects the Mac lineup to pick up steam in the coming months, as Apple is widely believed to be preparing a refresh of its Mac lineup. Specifically, the MacBook Pro, iMac and MacBook Air are all candidates for updates with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors.

If all three major Mac products are given an update in the June quarter, Munster believes it would result in a reacceleration of Mac sales that would compensate for any perceived disappointment in the March quarter.

Indications also surfaced earlier this month that Mac shipments were slow in the first quarter of 2012 due to a lack of new hardware. At the same time last year, Apple refreshed its major MacBook Pro notebook line, but this year Apple has been waiting for Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processors.