Munster: 2010 The Year of the Mac

January 19, 2010, 2:03 PM UTC

Mac sales, not iPhones or the new tablet, will drive near-term gains says a key Apple analyst

Click to enlarge. Sources: Company reports, Apple 2.0 consensus

Throw another 200,000 Macs on the barbie.

Less than a week before Apple’s (AAPL) Q1 2010 earnings report, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster raised his Mac sales estimate Tuesday to 3.1 million from 2.9 million and his price target to $279 from $277.

In a research note entitled “2010 Year of the Mac,” Munster cited NPD Group data for the past three months that show Mac sales up 26% year over year.

“Keep in mind,” writes Munster, “before the economic slowdown began Mac units were up 30-40% y/y on a quarterly basis. While hype surrounding the expected tablet will be focus of Apple long-term strategy, we believe we will see meaningful near-term upside from the Mac business.”

Munster is not the only analyst anticipating a bump in Mac unit sales. Merrill Lynch’s Scott Craig raised his Mac estimate Tuesday to 3.2 million from 2.9 million. Last week, Credit Suisse’s Bill Shope raised his to 3.28 million from 3.02 million, while Morgan Keegan’s Travis McCourt upped his to 3.12 million from 2.88 million.

(McCourt also lowered his iPhone estimate, rather dramatically, from 9.2 million to 7.6 million, anticipating a disappointing Chinese iPhone sales report. Munster is sticking with 9.3 million iPhones and Craig remains “comfortable” with 10 million.)

Below the fold: an updated version of our How many Macs did Apple sell? chart, based on the latest changes.

Analyst, Affiliation Macs (millions) Date of est.
Brian Marshall, Broadpoint AmTech 3.31 1/3/10
Mark Moskowitz, J.P. Morgan 3.29 1/4/10
Bill Shope, Credit Suisse 3.28 1/15/10
Yair Reiner, Oppenheimer Equity Res. 3.21 12/8/09
Ben Reitzes, Barclay’s Capital 3.20 1/7/10
Scott Craig, Merrill Lynch 3.20 1/19/10
Deagol, Deagol’s AAPL Model 3.18 1/3/10
Doug Reid, Thomas Weisel 3.13 12/28/09
Tavis McCourt, Morgan Keegan 3.12 1/13/10
Peter Misek, Canaccord Adams 3.10 1/3/10
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray 3.10 1/19/10
Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley 3.09 1/3/10
Turley Muller, Financial Alchemist 3.00 1/4/10
Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank 2.96 11/29/09
Shaw Wu, Kauffman Brothers 2.90 12/30/09
Nehal Chokshi, Technology Insights 2.85 1/4/10
Jeff Fidacaro, Susquehanna Financial 2.79 1/6/10

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]