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Apple posts net loss

The maker of the iMac posts a fourth-quarter net loss on charges, and says Macintosh sales fell 14 percent from the same period a year ago.

Apple Computer on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter net loss after writing down the value of some investments and taking a $4 million restructuring charge.

With the investment write-down, restructuring and other items, Apple posted a net loss of $45 million, or 13 cents per share, on revenue of $1.44 billion. That compares with a net profit of $66 million, or 19 cents per share, on revenue of $1.45 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding items, Apple met expectations with a profit of $7 million, or 2 cents per share.

Analysts were expecting the company to post earnings of 2 cents a share, according to First Call. Revenue was expected to be about $1.435 billion.

Apple said it shipped 734,000 Macintoshes during the quarter, down 14 percent from the year-ago quarter.

In July, Apple CFO Fred Anderson said the company expected revenue roughly flat with the prior quarter's $1.43 billion, and a "slight profit" amid anticipated lower profit margins.

Apple predicted only a modest improvement for the current quarter, which includes the holiday buying season.

"Looking forward, we do not expect our industry to pick up anytime soon, though we're hoping to help put a lot of iPods, iMacs and iBooks under trees this holiday season," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement.

Apple said it expects revenue to be "up slightly" from the September quarter, and said it expects "a slight profit for the quarter before nonrecurring items," according to the company statement.

Separately, Apple has trimmed the price of its lowest priced flat-panel iMac by $100, bringing the U.S. price of the model with CD burner to $1,199.

Last week, the company trimmed the price of that model in several countries overseas and cut the U.S. price of another model by $100.

In a conference call with analysts, Anderson said Apple was buoyed by strong sales of its iPod digital music player but said education sales as well as sales of its professional products were weaker.

Apple sold 140,000 iPods during the quarter, including 54,000 devices sold to owners of Windows-based PCs. The company also benefited from sales of Mac OS X 10.2, known as Jaguar. Apple said it sold 280,000 copies of the operating system, excluding volume licenses, and said the company is on track to have 5 million Macintoshes, or 20 percent of all Macs in use, running Mac OS X.

As for the company's flat-panel iMac, Apple said it sold 113,000 units in the quarter, with sales of the high-end 17-inch model coming out better than anticipated. The company also sold 76,000 of the old-style iMac and 129,000 eMacs.

Apple noted that it had been able to reduce inventory to a more normal level. Anderson said there is now five weeks' worth of products in the hands of retailers and distributors, down from six-and-a-half weeks' worth a quarter ago.

In addition, Anderson said that the company is pleased with the number of customers who have moved from Apple's free iTools service to its paid .Mac service.

Monday was the deadline for iTools customers to upgrade to .Mac at a discounted $49 rate. Anderson said that to date more than 200,000 people have subscribed to .Mac. Apple had 2.2 million registered accounts for the free iTools service.