Apple's first quarter 2004 iPod unit sales almost matched its Mac unit sales, Apple revealed last night.

The company shipped 733,000 iPods – a 235 per cent year-on-year increase in unit sales; the company shifted 829,000 Macs in the quarter.

Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson revealed that two-thirds of iPod sales took place in the US. Macworld revealed yesterday that 17 per cent of iPods shifted in the UK.

The company also confessed to the well-reported shortage of iPods over the Christmas shopping period; it couldn't meet demand: "Even though we had a record quarter for iPod sales, it could have been higher if we didn't have shortages," Anderson said, predicting the product would remain popular in Apple's second financial quarter.

Apple was enthusiastic about last week's news that HP plans to sell a portable music player based on the iPod and will bundle iTunes with its PCs.

"We're very optimistic that this is going to drive significant incremental business for our iPod and our iTunes Music Store," Anderson said. It won't pull potential customers away from Mac hardware because other multimedia applications such as iPhoto, iDVD and the new GarageBand are available only for the company's own systems, Apple executives said. The company has no plans for similar deals involving the other multimedia applications, they said, and no plans to bring iLife to Windows.

Apple did concede that the introduction of iTunes for Windows during the quarter contributed to the strength of iTunes and iPod revenue. iTunes users bought and downloaded 17 million songs from the service during the quarter. The company declined to release Windows against Mac iPod percentages of its sales, and admitted that the profit margins on the iPod mini and HP iPod would be lower than those on the existing product.

Apple's US-only iTunes Music Store and iPods continue to b"gain momentum", Apple said, with music downloads remaining "very popular", Anderson said.

Apple expects another quarter of double-digit year-over-year growth in both revenue and earnings, with revenue growing to $1.8 billion and earnings per share coming in between $0.08 and $0.10, Anderson said.

Apple will begin its iTunes Music Store promotion with PepsiCo to give away 100 million songs at the SuperBowl later this month, and in February the company's iPod mini will debut.

No information was offered regarding extending the Music Store to other territories.