Apple could be planning cut-price MacBook: Analyst

Apple could be planning to tempt cash-strapped consumers by releasing a MacBook laptop priced below $US1000.

Apple could be planning to tempt cash-strapped consumers by releasing a MacBook laptop priced below $US1000.

Analysts have been reading the tea leaves on Apple’s future product plans since the company’s chief financial officer hinted that it would take action to reduce the price advantage enjoyed by its competitors.

Speaking on a conference call to analysts following Apple’s announcement of a 31% increase in net income for the June 2008 quarter to $US1.7 billion, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said the company plans a “future product transition” that will weigh on profit margins.

The product transition and steps will help take away “an umbrella for our competitors”, Oppenheimer said.

Those comments have been interpreted by several analysts as supporting rumours that Apple plans to release new, lower priced desktop and laptop computers or cut prices for existing models.

AppleInsider reports Gene Munster, an analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray, told investors it is likely Apple will move aggressively to stake out a position at the lower end of the market.

“We believe there is an 80% chance Apple will introduce redesigned MacBooks and possibly new MacBook Pros at lower price points,” Munster said in a note to clients. “Specifically, Apple may re-enter the $US999 price point (currently $US1099) with the MacBook, or test the $US1799 price point with the MacBook Pro (currently $US1999).”

A more affordable touch iPod could also be on the cards, Munster says.

“We believe Apple is getting slightly more aggressive with its pricing; but overall the company is not diverting from its strategy of premium pricing.”

Apple, Google and eBay have all reported income growth over the past week that, although significantly ahead of the rest of the market, have not managed to exceed analyst forecasts.

Yahoo announced much worse results overnight, with an 18% fall in profit for the June quarter. Yahoo’s $US131 million quarterly profit is down $US30 million on the same quarter last year.

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