Analysts are divided in their thoughts regarding the prospects for Apple, following the release of that company's first-quarter figures on Wednesday night.

Apple stock fell slightly in trading yesterday, reflecting investor's concerns that sales of Apple's new professional Power Mac line fell 5,000 units in the traditionally consumer-oriented Christmas shopping quarter Apple enumerated Wednesday, according to CBS MarketWatch. However, the quarter did see excellent Apple notebook sales, reflecting IDC's announcement that notebook sales climbed 40 per cent in Europe last year.

"Units were below forecast as an inventory draw-down and a decline in K-12 (US education segment) sales weighed on shipments," said Steve Fortuna of Prudential Securities to that title.

Fortuna's pessimism is tempered by Monday's positive pronouncement from Merril Lynch, last night's upbeat judgement by Needham & Co's analyst Charles Wolf and UBS analyst Ben Reitzes' upgrade of Apple stock to 'buy' from 'neutral'.

Reitzes described yesterday's stock value weakness as a buying opportunity. He discussed Apple's "strong upside potential from sales of iPods and portables and new products due in 2004".

He told CBS Marketwatch: "The valuation now looks compelling, the shift to partnering is encouraging and retail profitability and sales momentum is encouraging." The UBS target price for Apple stock stood at $28.

Apple stock closed at $22.85 last night, down 5.6 per cent on the day's trading after announcing its most profitable quarter for four years.