Apple Online StoreAnalysts this morning weighed in on Apple as the holiday shopping season began last Friday.

According to notes issued this morning from Piper Jaffray, Apple’s Black Friday went well. Apple’s number of items and discount (8% average) was consistent with previous Black Friday sales. Mac sales averaged 13 per hour, up from 2 per hour from Piper’s study earlier in November. The firm did not provide year-over-year comparisons for black Friday. iPhone sales averaged 3.4 per hour, up from 1.3 per hour from their early November study.

In short: Apple’s Mac sales were better than Piper expected on Black Friday.

Goldman Sachs’ note stated that crowds remain the norm in the Apple Stores that they visited, with some having lines outside the stores even after the initial early-morning rush.

The promotions that Apple ran on Friday were relatively modest and mostly consistent with last year $50 to $100 off of iMacs and MacBooks, $10 to $20 off of the iPod nano and iPod touch, and a wide range of specials on accessories. Customer interest seemed particularly heavy in Macs and we saw several customers buying Mac bundles that included AppleCare support contracts and third-party software.

Goldman also noted that sales of iPod and Mac accessories (including Airport Extreme and Time Capsule) also seemed strong which is possibly a reflection of more modest consumer spending this year.

Analysts at Thomas Weisel Partners talked with representatives from 47 Apple Retail stores (including international locations), 35 Best Buy stores and 2 Wal-Mart stores and came away from the checks incrementally more confident in their long-term positive thesis on AAPL shares and December quarter estimates.

Weisel analysts’ checks suggest that AAPL continues to gain market share in personal computers, smartphones and MP3 players despite the challenge of higher price points in difficult economic times. Their checks indicated that Apple retail same store sales are flat to slightly up year-over-year, better than the flat to down YOY same store sales for major electronics retailer Best Buy. The firm’s checks also suggest that iPod demand (historically 40-50% of AAPL Dec Q revenue) has been strong.

According to Weisel analysts, Apple’s Mac sales are trending in-line with their expectations: 2.4 million Macs in the Christmas quarter.

Of the 47 AAPL representatives Weisel analystse spoke with, 66% indicated that the stores were equally busy or busier than last year for the Black Friday weekend, the rest of the reps the firm spoke with did not provide commentary with respect to y/y trends. In contrast, 0% of the 35 BBY reps they spoke with indicated that the stores were equally busy or busier than last year and 34% of the BBY reps commented that the stores were less busy than last year. Weisel believes this indicates that AAPL continues to gain market share acrosall product categories served (PCs, smartphones and MP3 players).

In addition, iPod sales appear robust with positive mix and margin affects from strong sales of the nano and touch. Based on theirr recent checks, Weisel analysts believe sources of upside to our iPod revenue estimate of $2.3 billion include both favorable unit and ASP trends.

Macs appear to be tracking to expectations with $1299 MacBook selling well to new Mac users. Our in-store visits in SF, NYC and Toronto as well as calls to AAPL and BBY retail stores leave Weisle analysts feeling comfortable with their current iPhone and Mac unit estimates for the Dec Q (i.e. 2.4mn macs and 6.9mn iPhones). Weisel noted that the Mac tables were busy and that lineups appeared seasonally long.

Wesiel says that the new MacBooks (starting at $1299) are being well received by new Mac users suggesting to us that Apple continues to gain market share in the higher price point notebook. Additionally, the lower price point ($999) white MacBook also appears to be attracting a lot of attention among new Mac users. Specifically, 47% of the representatives we spoke with suggested that the $999 MacBook was a best seller, while 36% of the representatives we spoke with suggested that the $1299 MacBook was a best seller.

Bottom line: Apple appears to have started out the holiday shopping season very well indeed.