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Forecasters start changing their tune on Apple, AAPL
Friday, January 4, 2013 @ 3:06am

Despite the three-month decline of Apple's stock price, some analysts are now more confident that the company has some solid operations behind it and will continue to deliver industry-beating growth rates across 2013 and into the following year, even if speculated new products such as "Pandora-like radio service" or long-rumored HDTV set never materialize. There is also some evidence the corporate and enterprise buying of Apple products may snowball in 2013.



Forrester Research is predicting that Apple will have a record year in enterprise sales of Macs and iPads in 2013, estimating a total of $18 billion in corporate sales between the two lines, with the iPad leading the way. Though competition in the "business tablet" space may increase due to efforts from Microsoft and Google to undercut the iPad, in the foreseeable future the iPad remains the best choice for tablets, and retains strong employee preference for them over Android- or Windows-based devices. The analytic firm predicts that corporate spending on Windows tablets and PCs will be flat in 2013, as many units will be replaced with mobile devices most often running iOS or Android. Linux devices (such as servers) supporting Macs and mobile devices are part of a new overall workflow that sees Forrester estimating a 44 percent increase in combined Linux and Android spending (to a total of $8 billion) along with a 23 percent increase in Mac buying (to $7 billion). While Wintel will still snare the lion's share of corporate computer spending ($124 billion), growth in that sector will slow until Windows 8 is more widely adopted in 2014 and beyond. Spending on iPads will continue to grow into 2014, where Forrester believes companies will spend $13 billion on Apple's tablet alone. Rumors that iWork will compete more aggressively against Microsoft Office by integrating with corporate tools like VMWare's Horizon suite may help the company gain a foothold, particularly if Microsoft delays or does not release a planned iPad version of Microsoft Office this year. AppleInsider has reported that Evercore Partners analyst Rob Cihra is calling for the company to have done better than expected in its most recent quarter, ahead of any gains made in the corporate sector. Chira is calling for Apple to report sales of 50 million iPhones and 24 million iPads -- including 10 million iPad minis -- along with around five million Mac units. Despite the optimistic projections (averaging some 40 percent growth year-over-year), he has trimmed his target price for the stock down to $750 (from $775), though he has maintained an "overweight" rating as he believes his estimates may be conservative. Current consensus estimates are for Apple to report sales of around $54.5 billion and earnings per share of just over $13.

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