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Cheaper, faster iBooks coming this week

Sources say Apple may cut the price of new iBook models by $200, as well as increase processor speeds for the portable laptops.

Apple Computer is expected to unveil cheaper, faster iBooks later this week, according to sources, in an effort to boost holiday sales of its portable laptop.

The Mac maker plans to drop prices by $200 across the iBook line, bringing the price of the entry-level model under $1,000, sources said. The new iBooks are also expected to be 100MHz faster than previous machines, sources said.

With the price drop and speed increase, the entry-level iBook will include a 700MHz chip and sell for $990, while a model with a 12-inch screen and combination CD/DVD drive will come with a 800MHz processor and sell for $1,299. A similar model with a 14-inch screen is expected to sell for $1,599.

An Apple representative declined to comment.

Some resellers say that the new iBooks can be ordered, and are expected to be available shortly after the product launch, which they have been told is set for Wednesday.

Apple's own Web site appeared to partially confirm reports from resellers early Monday. An advertisement on the Apple online store initially said iBooks start at $999. A similar ad noted that PowerBooks start at $2,299--$200 lower than the current price for the low-end PowerBook.

On Monday afternoon, however, the text of the ads had changed to reflect Apple's current pricing structure for iBooks. The ad appears when a customer includes a new iBook or new PowerBook in their shopping cart. The small ad, located in the upper right-hand corner of the Web page, touts Apple's financing program.

Availability of current iBook and PowerBook models at Apple's online store has been pushed out. Late last week, shipping times increased to three to five days, from one to two days earlier in the week.

Although there has been some talk of Apple offering a modest upgrade to its PowerBook line, resellers say they haven't been informed of any details on new models.

Rumors of faster Apple laptops have been making the rounds for some time, with further details on the iBook showing up in the past week on a number of Apple enthusiast sites, including Think Secret.

Apple last updated its iBook line in May, boosting hard drives and processor speeds.

The Mac maker has also promised that its Xserve RAID storage system would be available before the end of the year. Apple announced a few details on the product in May; the company said the storage system would hold up to 14 hard drives for a total capacity of 1.68 terabytes.

It is not clear whether Apple plans to launch the product this week.