Apple's tea leaves: iPhone sales off a bit; MacBooks selling well

Piper Jaffray Gene Munster unveiled his latest read on Apple demand Monday and reckons that the company will see iPhone December quarter sales to fall about 5 percent to 15 percent from the September quarter. Meanwhile, demand is "healthy" for the latest MacBooks.

Piper Jaffray Gene Munster unveiled his latest read on Apple demand Monday and reckons that the company will see iPhone December quarter sales to fall about 5 percent to 15 percent from the September quarter. Meanwhile, demand is "healthy" for the latest MacBooks.

How Apple fares during this economic downturn has become a little bit of a parlor game. And this guessing game continues even as vendors such as Intel are saying business stinks.

Munster and his team frequently spends time in Apple stores trying to get a read on demand.

Here's what he found after 25 hours in Apple's stores.

Munster writes:

We believe iPhone units will decline 5-15% sequentially. We currently model an 8% decline. This is above recent reports from Asian suppliers suggesting up to a 40% sequential decline.

Munster figures that iPhone sales will be cushioned in the December quarter due to international subscribers. Meanwhile, the iPhone will be a holiday gift in some cases. Munster is predicting that Apple will sell 6.4 million in the December quarter with the help of Best Buy.

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The upshot: Less than iPhone Armageddon here. Anything less than terrible is actually pretty good.

On Mac demand, Munster writes:

Demand for the new MacBooks appear to be healthy. We believe there will be slight upside to our 2.6m Mac units in December. Our estimates are at the high end of company guidance.

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The upshot: If Apple hits its outlook, which was viewed as lowball guidance, it would be seen as a victory now. Munster's take may be accurate, but it remains to be seen if he's right. Why the skepticism? New MacBooks just landed--we need to see what happens after that first wave of the Mac faithful is done buying.

Also see: NPD: iPhone top dog in declining consumer handset market