14 October, 2008

Apple eyes Successful Holiday Season with new Mac Notebooks

As per the norm, rumor-mills were ablaze with blurry photos, leaked specs and incredulous claims about Apple's (AAPL) upcoming surprises in the computer space. Just about a month after it refreshed its iPod line for the school and holiday seasons the Mac maker returns to the stage to unveil an entire new line of laptops, with enough bells and whistles and marketing glam to gleam into the eyes of affluent America regardless of those pesky "economic headaches".

Will it be enough to satisfy Investors and bring ever-increasing tight-wallet parents out of the woodwork and into Best Buy (BBY) or Apple retail stores?

The run-down of new products, in short prose will follow, as they'll cleverly be splashed across technology publications all day and likely all week. The important thing however is that Apple is using the rumored "Brick" design process to make cases for the entire laptop line. A process that is able to carve an aluminum case for each laptop out of a block of metal, saving all excess to be reused in the process at later stages, this is in fact not a wasteful process at all. Apple getting high environmental marks for its latest products is also a change for the company over the course of the last couple years. The new laptops also now have glass track-pads without individual buttons. A new feature of today's laptop line is that the glass track-pad acts as a button and introduce more multi-touch capabilities including 4 finger actions. Not to mention the innovation of having its Pro line of laptops driven by not 1 but 2 graphics cards, that can be turned on and off for better battery performance or better hardcore video performance.

But without further delay:
-> MacBook: Original White Model price drop to $999. Apple just barely entering the sub-$1000 market, it may not be enough to convince analysts but the $999 price point is nonetheless an actractive one for the core Apple market demographic and engaging those further beyond it.
-> Aluminum MacBook: In 2 configurations at $1299 and $1599
-> Refreshed MacBook Air: In 2 configurations with spec bumps at $1799 and $2499
-> Aluminum MacBook Pro: Multiple configurations for 15" and 17" models: 15" models in 2 configurations at $1999 and $2499
-> Apple also introduced a new 24" Display for $899

So, now that the current round of rumors may be put to rest, what does the future and the holiday season hold for Apple. By all accounts of the crowd at the notebook event, the reactions to the new laptops was very positive. Will the $999 MacBook continue to be a best-seller or will Apple have to dive deeper into netbook price territory?

It is my belief that Apple's brand has for years developed a premium stigma to it and that the design prowess of the company can not be underestimated. While other computer makers may struggle with economic conditions, putting pressure on margins, Apple's pressure is offset by its current target demographic, which mainly consists of youths with disposable cash and many parents of that youth segment. Apple made big points in its presentation today about its growth in the retail segment of the US and its market share gains across college campuses. This will resonate in the years to come as well as the short term. Of all those feeling the pressure of an economic slowdown the last truly feeling the pinch will be the more affluent and wealthy of which Apple demands a significant amount of technology/gadget attention with its iconic product line of iPods, iPhones and Macs.

That is not to say Apple shares wont feel the pressure, in fact Apple suffered as large a drop as any large tech company over the past month as fear of consumer spending shortages spread throughout markets. With Apple the volatility comes with the secrecy and the cult-like following. But markets, as forward-looking as they are generally aren't wrong for very long.

Apple is expected to reveal quarterly results on October 21st following a quarter mixed in terms of news coverage, events and economic activity. While it is a big back to school season for Apple at this time of year, analysts and Investors are fearful that the economic uncertainty facing the US could have had a significant impact on casual spending. Apple has proven to be recession-proof in the past but the company will have to prove itself again with results, and prove itself yet again with guidance that doesn't scare off the institutional buyers.

Till results are revealed, Analysts, Investors and Fan-Boys have a brand new slate of Apple laptops to go and check out at Apple stores all across the country.

Disclosure: Author owns AAPL.

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