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Apple switches on PowerBook cuts

The Mac maker drops prices on some notebook models by hundreds of dollars, in a push to sell as many laptops as desktops.

Apple Computer on Monday cut the price of its 12-inch and 15-inch PowerBooks in a push to make notebook computers a larger part of its business.

The standard 12-inch PowerBook, which comes with a drive that can burn CDs and play DVD movies, drops in price by $200 to $1,599. A similar model with a more-capable SuperDrive, which can burn both DVDs and CDs, also takes a $200 cut to sell for $1,799.

The 15-inch PowerBook saw price drops of up to $300, depending on features. It now starts at $1,999 for the 867MHz model, rising to $2,599 for a model with a 1GHz processor. The higher-end model also includes 512MB of RAM--twice as much as the basic machine--and a larger hard drive.

Apple did not make any changes to the features of its notebooks, nor did it drop the price of its 17-inch PowerBook, which sells for $3,299 with a SuperDrive.

"We said in January (that 2003) is going to be the year of the notebook, and it is looking like that is the case," said Greg Joswiak, a vice president at the Cupertino, Calif.-based Mac maker. Company CEO Steve Jobs made that proclamation at Macworld Expo, when he introduced the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks.

Joswiak said that Apple has not seen a drop in laptop sales and that the price cuts were planned.

"We want to get to a point where we are selling as many notebooks as desktops, and you need to do some stuff to make that happen," he said. Notebooks make up about 42 percent of all Macs sold, well above the PC industry average of a 25 percent ratio of laptops to desktops sold, Joswiak said.

As for the 17-inch model, Joswiak said the company has more or less caught up with an order backlog, and the laptop is still seeing strong sales.

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said that it makes sense to cut the prices on the 12-inch and 15-inch models, now that they are no longer brand-new. Also, 15-inch models have become more standard in the industry than they were when Apple introduced the Titanium PowerBook at the beginning of 2001.

"In a market where prices are always coming down, it just makes an awful lot of sense for Apple to do this," he said.

Gartenberg said that although the Mac maker does not have the cheapest models on the market, it offers a good value for what you get.

"It's always been the case that if you were looking for the lowest-priced laptop you could do better than Apple's offerings, but these price cuts bring them even further into line with competitors," he said.