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Apple Ready to Taste $200

The holiday season confirms the company's strength in notebook computers.

Strong holiday spending on computers capped a banner year for Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report, which should keep its shareholders among the happiest in the tech sector.

The company's notebooks ranked among the top-selling computersat online retailer

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during the Christmas shopping season.

The news is an important signal that Apple's torrid growth rate hasn'tlost steam. Mac sales and unit shipments have been on therise, and the trend has more than offset the moderating pace of iPodsales, which resurrected the company and lifted it into thetop tier of consumer electronics.

Apple's stock was recently up 20 cents to $198.91. The shares earlier hit a 52-week intraday high of $199.97 -- they've risen nearly 140% in 2007.

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In Apple's most recent quarter, a 34% increase in Mac unit shipments over last year yielded a 40% boost in computer sales andgenerated half the company's total revenue. IPod sales, bycontrast, grew just 4% and accounted for 26% of total sales.

Notebooks make up about 60% of Apple's computer shipments.

Strong Mac sales also underscore the success of Apple's finely honedproduct management strategy. The company carefully timed the releaseof updated notebook and desktop computers this year, and also releaseda new suite of audio-visual software and the latest version of itsoperating system.

In the past few years, Apple has gotten more than half of its computersales during the final two quarters of the year, and executives haveappeared bullish about holiday shopping.

The company's revenue and profit forecast for the current quarterinitially topped analysts' estimates, breaking with Apple's traditionof issuing conservative forecasts that fall below estimates.

"We're looking forward to a strong December quarter as we enter theholiday season with Apple's best products ever," Chief ExecutiveSteve Jobs said in the company's last quarterly earnings statement.

Apple forecast earnings of $1.42 a share on sales of $9.2 billion, butanalysts have been ratcheting up their expectations, and now see thecompany earning $1.57 a share on $9.4 billion in sales, according toThomson Financial.