Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is predicting a bumper year for Apple, suggesting that Mac sales, not iPhones or the new tablet, will drive near term gains.

In a research note entitled "2010 Year of the Mac" Munster claims that Apple will has seen a 26 per cent increase in the past three months, compared to the same quarter last year, reports CNNMoney.

Munster raised his Mac sales estimate for the quarter to 3.1 million from 2.9 million. Other analysts have similar expectations: Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig raised his Mac estimate to 3.2 million from 2.9 million; Credit Suisse analyst Bill Shope raised his to 3.28 million from 3.02 million; Morgan Keegan's Travis McCourt upped his to 3.12 million from 2.88 million.

Munster notes: "Keep in mind, before the economic slowdown began Mac units were up 30-40 per cent year on year on a quarterly basis. While hype surrounding the expected tablet will be focus of Apple long-term strategy, we believe we will see meaningful near-term upside from the Mac business."

Apple is due to release the figures for its Q1 2010 earnings next Monday (25 January).