Tech Check

Apple's Leopard & iPhone: Could News Get Any Better?


This is a big couple of days for Apple ; as if the company's blockbuster earnings at the beginning of the week wasn't big enough news on its own.

Friday will bring the official release of the company's highly anticipated, and delayed operating system "Leopard." With the company selling better than 2 million Macs last quarter, there's no question that a new OS could juice sales even more. That's what new operating systems have done for the company in the past--think back to the importance of Tiger--and the Street fully expects Leopard to be a catalyst as well.

I've gotten ahold of Piper Jaffray's targets for Leopard and the news is rosey, to say the least: Piper estimates Leopard will contribute $240 million to Apple's topline in the current quarter. Piper contends that its numbers might be a bit aggressive, based on what the company tracked when Tiger was released.

There's a little bit of a concern that interest might be lower than it was in Tiger, and that the numbers might not match up. Still, Piper does assume that a big chunk of the Mac population will upgrade.

As an aside, when Tiger shipped, the installed base was about 12 million users. The installed base today is more than twice that; around 23 million users. About 15% of Mac users upgraded to Tiger in its first six weeks of availability. About 66% ultimately upgraded.

Another key piece of news out this morning: a fascinating story about the true profit potential from iPhone, based on its unique revenue sharing arrangement with AT&T . This also comes courtesy of Piper Jaffray, and it's analysis that I haven't seen before. It's also what Piper is using to up its 52-week target to a Street high of $250 a share. The report says the revenue sharing is greater than what has been factored into other analysts' target prices.

Piper is now modeling Apple to sell 3.4 million iPhones this calendar year; 12.9 million next year, and 45 million by calendar year 2009. That 2009 figure is way ahead of the rest of the Street, but that's because Piper is anticipating average selling prices to fall significantly by then.

Based on the revenue sharing agreement with AT&T, Apple pockets $18 per phone per month today. The firm's original estimate was only $6.50. By the end of calendar year 2009, because of a decline in average selling prices, the number will be around $9.

For that reason alone, Piper is raising its target to $250 from $222, which translates into 25 times its calendar year 2009 booked EPS of $9.50 versus the previous multiple of 28x.

It's a compelling case, even as Apple shares continue to climb.

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