As many as one million Windows users may have switched to Macs this year as the iPod halo transforms Apple into a technology industry "darling", an analyst said last night.

In his latest note to clients, received by this reporter, Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf reflects that Apple's fast-paced series of innovations have driven its resurgence.

"The momentum generated by these products has translated into financial results that have easily beat most estimates. Most importantly, Windows users are buying Macs in increasing numbers. We estimate that in the first three quarters of calendar 2005, over one million of them have purchased a Mac compared to our estimate of 500,000 for the entire calendar year. Clearly, the so-called halo is working. Windows users are also switching because of the growing epidemic of viruses infecting their PCs," he writes.

Wolf also reflects that Apple's competitors have "effectively ceded the download market to Apple", and are fighting back with subscription services.

Despite the good news, Wolf has downgraded his rating on Apple from 'Buy' to 'Hold'. This isn't a bad thing; the analyst argues that the company's shares have now reached their $61 target price. Wolf has doubled that price during the year.

"The risk in our downgrade is that the frenetic pace of innovation at Apple could present new opportunities, which could trigger an upgrade at a price that's much higher than it is today," he said.

Wolf argues that he can't create an estimate based on Apple strategies he knows nothing about, and suggests Windows users may be switching to Mac at an even faster rate than he estimates.