Apple’s iPod line: A $7.5 billion business that gets no respect



Q3 '12 is an estimate. iPod touch ests. are Piper Jaffray's

FORTUNE -- You might think that after tracking them for nearly a dozen years, the analysts who follow Apple (aapl) would have a better handle on the company's quarterly iPod sales. But Apple analysts tend to focus on the product lines that are still growing like gangbusters -- chiefly the iPad and the iPhone -- and they offer iPod estimates almost as an afterthought.

That may explain the wide discrepancy in iPod unit sales numbers submitted by our panel of 62 analysts -- 28 from Wall Street and 34 independents. The estimates ranged from a low of 5 million from Janney Capital Market's Bill Choi, to a high of 7.5 million from Bullish Cross' Andy Zaky.

There was no particular pattern to distinguish the pros from the independents. Both groups -- as you can see from the table below the fold -- were all over the lot.

There was, however, something of a consensus. The average estimate among the professionals was 6.38 million units, and the average among the indies was nearly the same: 6.36 million.

Because Apple doesn't break out sales numbers for the original iPods versus the iPod touch (except to say that the touch these days represents more than half of iPod sales), we've relied in the chart above on Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who estimates the split to be approaching 64/36 in favor of the iPod touch.

Below the fold: The analysts' individual estimates, with the pros in blue and the amateurs in green. We'll find out who was closest to the mark when Apple reports its earnings a week from today (Tuesday, July 24).

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