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Apple unveils new iMacs, revamps MacBooks and minis

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 22, 2009
'Same old, same old,' complains analyst about refresh sans price cuts

Apple also retooled the MacBook, which like its more costly MacBook Pro brethren, now comes in a sleeker case. Although the $999 13.3-inch MacBook features a "unibody" enclosure, the material remains polycarbonate, not the more stylish and sturdy aluminum used in the MacBook Pro line.

The MacBook boasts a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chipset and a 250GB hard drive. Some of those components are upgrades from the new model's predecessor, which relied on a 2.13GHz CPU and included a 160GB hard drive. It also includes the same long-run built-in battery -- Apple claims it will power the laptop for seven hours -- used in the MacBook Pro, and an LED-backlit screen and multi-touch trackpad to match the parts in the upper-end line.

All the new iMacs and the MacBook come with Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard , the operating system upgrade that Apple launched nearly two months ago.

"I'm sorely disappointed," said Gottheil, of today's new models. "They're clearly sticking with what they've got and being very conservative. It would have been very interesting if they had dropped the entry point of the MacBook, but they didn't." Gottheil, along with many other analysts, had put their money on Apple cutting the price of the MacBook as a recognition that laptop prices have been effectively "reset" to a lower mark in the last 12 months.

"It sure looks like Apple won't have to lower prices, not with the quarter they just had," Gottheil added, referring to the blow-out earnings for the quarter ending Sept. 30 that Apple announced yesterday. "There's no urgency for them to do so, and obviously they're not being compelled by the market to do it. They could barely meet demand earlier."

Last summer, Apple's executives said yesterday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts, MacBook Pro supply was tight after an early-June refresh, enough that some buyers were forced to wait until July -- in the third calendar quarter -- to get their hands on the laptop.

Even so, Apple will eventually have to wake up and smell the pricing coffee, Gottheil argued. "I don't think Apple wants to be the vendor that charges several times more than the average of the category that they're in," he said. "They don't want to be the Lamborghini of computer makers, they want to be the BMW."

Apple also updated the Mac mini -- its lowest-priced, but display-less Mac -- today, with two models at $599 and $799, and added a new entry dubbed "Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server" at $999.

"This one is significant," said Gottheil. "It's a 'My First Server' device, a 'My First Pony,' for small offices that want to get serious about backup and hosting their own e-mail."

 

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