Apple's new Intel-based Macs are selling strongly, leaving the company set for growth in 2006, an analyst claims.

Analyst Shaw Wu of American Technology Research is ebullient on Apple's progress: "Sales of the new Intel Macs (iMac and MacBook Pro) appear strong," he said. "We believe it may be fuelled by customers who waited for Intel Macs and we see particular strength in the education, content creation and consumer end markets."

While MacBooks won't ship until February, Wu reports Apple is already facing problems meeting demand for the new pro-portables, a problem he sees as a blessing for the firm.

However, he warns that sales of older Macs based on PowerPC processors "appear to be lagging".

"We believe this may be due in part to Apple's marketing message that Intel is much better than PowerPC, and so far price points are comparable with no discounts offered," he explained.

Such confusion may not have long: "Inventories of PowerPC Macs appear fairly lean at around 3-4 weeks," Wu states, warning that trying to market products based on both processors for too long would confuse consumers.

With strong iPod sales continuing - even after Christmas - Wu states: "We believe that 2006 will also see a year of significant Apple innovation and momentum. Maintain "Buy" and $101 price target."

The analyst also observed that while Apple's stocks dipped in the strength that it issued conservative targets for its current quarter, the target results still represent major achievement.

"Investors may not be appreciating that Apple still aims for what will likely be its second best quarter in its nearly 30-year history," he said.