08 June, 2009

Apple cuts Mac prices, unveils Software and new iPhone at WWDC

The yearly developer showcase that is Apple's (AAPL) Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off with a keynote, once again sans-Jobs, but was packed with several software and hardware announcements.

Consider Palm's (PALM) highly touted Pre smart phone sold well in its first weekend the landscape for telecom mind share had shifted away from Apple for at least a short while. Analysts early estimates point to sales of about 50,000 Pre devices in the first weekend for Palm, which compares to about 270,000 devices when the original iPhone went on sale and 1,000,000 units for the iPhone 3G. While it may be unfair to compare launches since Sprint is a much smaller carrier compared to AT&T, and the iPhone 3G launched in a multitude of countries, its the media that counts. Palm made a good sized dent during the Pre's announcement, sales will have to continue to deliver if it hopes to turn that dent into a crack.

But when Apple takes the stage for any event, competitors in each line of business must be anxcious, hoping to be able to breathe a sigh of relief as the rumors come and go with little to no surprises. At today's event, it seems every business Apple is in, it made headaches for its competitors.

The Computer Hardware business: Apple reduced pricing on virtually all of its machines, turning the well designed aluminum laptops into a family of MacBook Pro machines starting at $1199 for the 13 inch computer formally known as simply a MacBook. The slim MacBook Air also got a price cut and Apple kept the $999 price point on the previous generation white plastic MacBook. The only model in the line to keep only the MacBook name.

The Computer Software business: Mac OS X Snow Leopard, branded and versioned like a full OS upgrade, was priced like a going out of business sale. $29 for the next version of Apple's Operating System due in September, has got to make the folks at Microsoft (MSFT), who are rolling out Windows 7 a month later, a little bit edgy.

The Phone business: Apple, having repeatedly said, didn't want to leave a price umbrella for competitors has finally publicly brandished an iPhone on the world for $99. While unveiling a 'newer, better, faster, stronger' iPhone 3GS, sounds like a Porsche doesn't it, the company kept its $199/$299 pricing for the new models, setting the existing iPhone at the magic 99 figure. This puts tremendous pressure on the makers of Blackberries, and Androids, and especially the Pre, which is $199 after a $100 rebate.

Many hoped, Steve Jobs would make at least a minor show-stopping appearance, the rumor mill still has Apple's iconic CEO returning to work at the end of the month, which will put several analysts and many potential investors at ease. Apple's year-to-date run up of 69% has showed that Investors feel the company can survive without Steve or they are already sure he will return. However, the company still stands $60/share away from those gaudy 2007 highs, with a business models that combined are selling more devices than ever.

Disclosure: Author is long AAPL

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