Top analyst Susan Byrne of Gabelli Westwood calls Apple a "safe pick" in a piece written for

She describes Apple's stock as "having upside potential", praising the company for maintaining "a strong balance sheet", despite the overall slowdown in the PC market.

Byrne felt that Apple had kept its head above water by adeptly reducing inventories and releasing innovative new product lines, such as its latest iBook.

The all-white notebook has been welcomed by analysts who believe it may help revive Apple's fortunes in the US education sector.

Byrne challenges industry thinking when she states: "We do not see the current slowdown in the personal computer market as a sign of saturation in the US; and see demand picking up as excesses created by 2000's spending bulge are worked through."

She believes that Apple's potential for increasing stock value outweighs the risks of its losing value by "four to one".

Apple's shares closed last Friday at $23.25.