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Apple Smacked by iMac Attack

So Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) won't be delivering its next-generation iMacs in time for the early school season? Is this delay really worth all the panicked headlines, fret, and a hefty trim in the stock price? I don't think so.

Sure, I've argued in the past that Apple's stock has gotten a bit frothy, but I'm willing to cut Cupertino a little slack on this particular stumble. After all, Apple has a tiny, but loyal following in the computer market. To judge by the angry email that flows my way whenever I criticize Jobs and Co., most Mac fans would crawl over a mile of gravel and broken glass in order to get their new machines - or bask in their glorious leader's presence. A few weeks' wait is not going to send them to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and its evil handmaidens, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and HP (NYSE: HPQ  ) .

The real problem is that the iMac line hasn't been selling. Last quarter, I wrote about the fact that Apple's real sales savior wasn't a computer at all, but the iPod. What I didn't have time to mention then was that the iMac sales has been the firm's preeminent laggard, with sales dropping 20% for the first half of the year.

By contrast, high-end PowerMacs saw a 21% rise, PowerBooks surged 32%, and iBooks notched a 26% gain. Can the new-generation iMac turn this around? Perhaps, but since Apple's other products are better sellers, it should be no hardship for the firm to push them for a few weeks until the new iMacs come online.

Shareholders, however, need to keep their eyes on the entire picture. Apple stock has walloped the market over the past few months, but it sports a P/E ratio of 65, the kind of premium normally reserved for fast-growing newcomers or faultless juggernauts, and Apple, despite its recent successes, is neither of those.

Discuss the iMac stumble in the Fool's Apple board.

Fool contributor Seth Jayson owns shares of Ceradyne, but no other company mentioned.

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