Investment Firm Bullish on New Macs

Needham & Company analysts predict that Power Macs based on IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 will give Apple's stock a boost.

In an endorsement of Apple Computer Inc.s rumored move to 64-bit computing, Needham & Company Inc. today upgraded its rating of the Mac maker from a "hold" to a "buy," setting a target price of $23.

In a research note Wednesday from Needham analysts Charles Wolf and Justin Udelhofen, the firm cited an anticipated rebound in Power Mac sales thanks to the new machines as well as improved iPod sales and the forthcoming iTunes Music Store for Windows.

The report from the New York investment banking and asset-management firm said that "the gigahertz gap between the Power Mac and Windows machines should significantly narrow when Apple most likely introduces new Power Macs running on IBMs 970 processor family" at Apples Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco next week. However, Needham noted that the announcements timing brings risk, and that if the processor is not produced until this fall, an Apple release could be delayed. "But its not a question of if, but when," the analysts said, forecasting that based on past Power Mac releases, the new models wont ship until the fall.

The research note also cites Web reports in suggesting that the first release of the 970 will run at speeds ranging from 1.4 to 1.8GHz. While the report said this was "still low by Intels standards," it projected that the 970 could hit 2.5GHz by mid-2004 and 4 to 5GHz by 2005. eWEEK reported on the forthcoming models last week.