Analysts believe the newly launched iBook will help Apple regain sales in the US education sector.

An AFX news report quotes Prudential Securities analyst Kimberly Alexy, who calls the iBook's features "impressive", going on to express "cautious optimism" for Apple.

Positive responses to the new iBook also came from Brett Miller at AG Edwards, Salomon Smith Barney's Richard Gardner, and Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Fortuna.

They see Apple's pre-Macworld Expo release of the iBook as indicative of the importance the company attaches to the education market.

Education drive Gardner believes the iBook will help US education districts migrate from desktop to notebook Macs. He added that, if Apple had waited until July to make the iBook announcement, it may have missed a crucial buying period in the US education market.

The analysts agree that the iBook will generate notebook sales for Apple, but warn that profit per-unit may be offset by the product's low cost.

The analysts' statements also bolstered rumours of the launch of an Apple-branded retail chain. They maintain the company needs to make its retail move in order to shore-up its brand and to boost sales.

Miller said: "Body language at Apple indicates the launch of Apple shops are very near."

PC sales rally In related news, confidence in the personal-computer sector is likely to be bolstered following a recent Gartner Group report stating that computers delivered in the European, African and Middle Eastern (EMEA) markets rose by 11.5 per cent in the first three months of this year. This reflects new sales mainly in the corporate, rather than consumer, sector. Overall, EMEA PC shipments rose 7.2 per cent to 9.7 million units in the quarter.

Apple closed at $26.59 after yesterday's trading, climbing $1.10 since Monday's close. Analysts expect Apple to reach $30 per share during the current quarter.