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A Morgan Stanley analyst who recently polled consumers in the U.S. said that Apple’s iPod music player and iTunes music store are continuing to gain popularity. In fact, according to the analyst, the iPod players are even more desired than cellular phones this holiday season.

“To hone in on this point, more people plan to buy an iPod this holiday season than a cell phone. Also interesting, more people plan to buy iTunes gift cards this season than non-iPod branded MP3 players,” AppleInsider web-site quotes Rebecca Runkle, an analyst with Morgan Stanley as saying in her research note.

The analyst recently conducted a survey of 2500 U.S. consumers and found that they plan to buy more iPod and related products than any other electronics category. Moreover, among those who would like to get an iPod, 40% already own an MP3 player from another company, which means that Apple’s music player continues to win market share from its rivals.

Moreover, the iPod have quite a lot of headroom for growth when it comes to volume: only 8% of U.S. households own an iPod, according to Morgan Stanley. Meanwhile, about 71% of U.S. households own at least one cell phone, according to Forrester Research. Volumes that Apple can supply have been steadily criticized by analysts.

“We continue to believe demand outstrips supply for iPods and that Apple is doing the best it can to supply both its own and traditional retail stores,” analyst Rebecca Runkle is reported as claiming.

Looking into Apple Computer’s product portfolio, Morgan Stanley said the company’s supply chain is pointing to notebook shipments that could increase with the new Intel-based Macs that are rumoured to be available starting from early 2006. The firm also sees the Mac mini and Front Row software moving into the living room, and an Apple-branded iPhone product sometime in the next 12 months.

“Apple hasn’t confirmed its phone strategy (or even acknowledged that one exists), but at our recent meeting management did suggest a) handset makers will eventually get an MP3 offering right and b) Apple’s strategy is to be an innovation leader,” Ms. Runkle reportedly wrote.

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