Analyst: Apple’s WWDC likely to ‘disappoint’

Given the rumors and high expectations, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster fears the World Wide Developers Conference that Apple (aapl) is hosting next week in San Francisco could be a "slight disappointment" to investors.

In a note to clients issued early Thursday, Munster writes that he hasn't lost faith in Apple's long-term plan to drive iPhone sales by adding new models, lowering prices and entering new markets (e.g. China).

He's just worried that it's not going to happen the way The Street expects. Specifically:

  • Apple is widely expected to unveil a new iPhone next week. Munster is cautious. "Regardless of whether or not new iPhones are announced at WWDC," he writes, "we continue to expect a mid-July launch of a family of iPhones."
  • Many investors are looking for Apple to announce a $99 iPhone and a cheaper data plan. Munster thinks $149 is a more likely price point and puts the chances of AT&T (t) offering reduced data fees at about 25%.
  • As for Steve Jobs, Munster is neither a pessimist nor an optimist. He doesn't believe Apple's CEO will take the stage on Monday, but he has faith that Jobs will return from his medical leave, as promised, before the end of June.
  • And as for OS X Snow Leopard, billed as one of the highlights of this year's WWDC (along with the iPhone 3.0 software), Munster worries that the "near-final release" will have "limited wow-factor" and that the demo "may be disappointing."

In a separate note, Oppenheimer's Yair Reiner writes that he expects Apple to delay the announcement of new iPhones for a few weeks to work through channel inventory of old phones and to avoid "diluting" next week's focus on Snow Leopard and iPhone 3.0.

Munster is sticking with his price target of $180 a share. Reiner has raised his to $160 from $140.

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