Apple continues to look attractive from an investor standpoint as the iPad release approaches

Apple's computer lineup, with the exception of the new i7 iMacs, is rather dated.  The problem is particularly severe in the MacBook Pro series, whose hardware currently trails even drastically cheaper models from competitors like ASUSTek.  Apple also has the difficulty of contending with an increasingly popular Windows 7 (while Apple supports Windows 7 via Boot Camp, claiming OS X to be the "better" operating system has been a time-honored Apple advertising technique).

Despite these hurdles, Apple is posting surprisingly good sales according to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster.  He and his fellow analysts are predicting the quarter that ends in March to be an epic success for Apple.

He personally predicts Mac sales to rise over 35 percent on a year to year basis.  In January and February, his numbers indicated sales to be up 39 percent.  These numbers are significantly higher than the still-optimistic average prediction of a 22 percent rise.  In total Munster expects 2.8 or 2.9 million Macs to sell over the quarter.

Even better for Apple, iPod sales are predicted to finally be up as well.  The iPod lineup was refreshed in the fall with the entire lineup receiving major changes, with the exception of the iPod classic, which had a minor capacity bump.  Munster predicts iPod sales to rise 7 percent, to reach 9 or 10 million units.

The optimism is diminished slightly by the fact that the gains were made easier by Apple's recessionary sales losses.  Last January through May, Apple's Mac sales dipped, and only recovered towards the end of the year with a very strong holiday season.  IPod sales fared even worse last year, posting an entire year of decreases, a trend that only appears to have reversed since January.

Looking ahead, there's much to be optimistic about for a recovering Apple; the iPad launches in April, an iPhone update is coming over the summer, and a MacBook/MacBook Pro refresh should be coming soon as well.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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