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Analyst roundup: iPhone sales could drop, production cuts possible

Several analysts have been lowering their expectations for iPhone sales during the first quarter of 2009, pointing to possible cuts in the number of units manufactured, according to a series of articles by Cult of Mac's Ed Sutherland.

Barclays Capital today cut its estimate of iPhone sales to 5 million handsets, down from 6.2 million. Yesterday, BMO Capital lowered its expectations to a slightly-better 5.6 million units, but still down from an earlier estimate of 6.6 million.

On Wednesday, UBS said iPhone production could drop to 6.7 million units, down from 9 million in the last quarter. Earlier this week, FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger said that Apple could have already cut iPhone production by 40 percent.

Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes suggested that Apple could cut prices on iPhones and develop a new low-end handset to stimulate sales, taking the lead from how the iPod and iPod mini sold.

Reitzes also speculated that a low-cost laptop could sell 3.5 million units per year. It's unclear if Apple will take Reitzes' advice, as Steve Jobs said at last month's laptop event that "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that."

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