What effect the transition announcement will have on Mac sales "is a difficult question to answer," said Cook. "We have only limited data at this point."

Indeed, the data from the just-completed quarter was largely positive for the company from the Mac standpoint. Unit sales of Apple's PowerMac, iMac and other desktop lines grew 65% over the same quarter last year to 687,000. Meanwhile, revenue from those sales grew 49% over the same time period to $845 million.

Sales of the company's portable computers grew at a much slower pace, rising just 3% to $720 million year over year. Still, the 495,000 notebook computers the company shipped in the quarter represented a new quarterly record, company officials said.

The robust overall performance of Apple's computer sales likely will be cheered by investors. Many have been hoping the popularity of Apple's iPod sales would help draw in new customers to the company's Macintosh computers. That seems to be happening. In the just-completed quarter, Apple's computer sales grew three times faster than the broader PC market, company officials said, marking the third straight quarter that Apple seems to have gained market share.

In addition to the pickup in desktop demand, Apple's results were driven by strong sales of iPod digital music players. iPod sales grew 343% year over year to $1.1 billion. Unit sales of iPods more than septupled to 6.2 million units. Even on a sequential basis, the sales appeared strong, with unit sales up 16% from the second quarter and dollar sales up 9%.

The iPod results came in better than the expectations of some analysts and ran counter to some indications within the industry. Both SigmaTel ( SGTL) and Creative Technologies ( CREAF) recently warned that their quarterly revenue would come in below expectations thanks to lower-than-expected consumer demand for MP3 players.

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