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Apple sales set for bounce with expected MacBook refresh

Sales already up over 20% this quarter, will get 4-to-6-week bump from new notebooks

February 23, 2011 01:05 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple's Mac sales are up more than 20% this quarter compared to the same quarter last year, and the company will get a further bump when it refreshes its MacBook line, an analyst said today. That refresh could come this week.

The Cupertino, Calif. company is on track to sell 3.6 million Macs, said Stephen Baker, analyst with the NPD Group, a company that monitors retail and online sales. Apple sold 2.9 million Macs in the first quarter of 2010.

Sales will pop in the next four to six weeks, added Baker, if Apple ships new MacBook Pros this week, as reports increasingly hint.

"Usually there is a significant bounce in the first month to six weeks and then a concurrent slowdown for a few weeks after that," said Baker, talking about Apple's sales trends when it refreshes a line. "Within two months the growth rate turns back to normal and the cumulative growth rate for the bounce and decline typically also results in a return to the trend line."

Another analyst cautioned that any bump Apple gets from new notebooks might be cumulatively smaller than Baker expects.

"What we don't know is how much of that bump is due to pent-up demand," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "Apple definitely gets a bump with refreshes, but some of that may be from customers who delayed purchases when they started hearing [about new models]."

According to numerous reports by Apple-centric blogs -- which have universally cited unnamed sources -- Apple will refresh its MacBook Pro line-up Thursday, turning to new Intel processors and chipsets, and adding an Intel device connection technology called Light Peak.

Apple will rename Light Peak as Thunderbolt, 9to5Mac.com reported today.

Other rumors swirling around new MacBook Pro models range from longer battery life to integrated SSD (solid-state drives), a page out of the MacBook Air line.

"They're always trying to extend battery life," noted Gottheil. "But I think a higher likelihood is that they'll include an SSD, maybe a hybrid, what with DRAM prices plummeting."

The last time that Apple refreshed the MacBook Pro was April 2010.

Baker sees Apple's penchant to space out new product announcements as more about public relations than about keeping sales steady throughout the year.



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