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Apple ships MacBook Pro with speedier chips

New Intel-based systems to use faster Core Duo processors than originally announced, but price to stay the same.

Apple Computer is officially shipping its first notebooks with Intel processors, and it has thrown in faster versions of those chips at no charge.

Starting this week, the MacBook Pro will ship to Apple retail stores and customers who ordered the notebook online, said David Moody, vice president of Mac hardware product marketing. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs first unveiled the MacBook Pro at the Macworld Expo in January, but the notebooks have undergone a slight change since then.

Two models were originally announced--one for $1,999 with Intel's 1.67GHz Core Duo processor and one for $2,499 with Intel's 1.83GHz processor. Apple will now include a 1.83GHz processor with the $1,999 system, and the $2,499 system will come with Intel's 2GHz Core Duo processor, Moody said. Customers will also be able to select a 2.16GHz processor for the $2,499 system for an additional $300, according to Apple's Web site.

Moody said Apple was already excited about the long-awaited redesign and upgrade of its notebook line with the Core Duo processors, "but we were just able to make it faster." He declined to comment on whether Intel or Apple will absorb the extra cost of those faster processors.

The 1.83GHz Core Duo processor costs $53 more than the 1.67GHz chip, and the 2GHz costs $129 more than the 1.83GHz chip, according to Intel's pricing page. But the 2.16GHz chip costs only $214 more than the 2.0GHz chip, as compared to the $300 Apple is charging for that upgrade option. Those prices reflect orders in quantities of 1,000 chips, and large Intel partners tend to negotiate their own pricing deals.

An order placed today on Apple's Web store will still take three to four weeks to ship. The $2,499 system will begin shipping with the new processors this week, while the $1,999 system will begin shipping next week, Moody said. Detailed configurations are available on Apple's Web site.

Intel has repeatedly said it has been very happy with the early returns from its Core Duo chip. The company was able to accelerate the launch date of the processor based on the health of its new 65-nanometer manufacturing technology, which caused PC vendors to scramble to get their designs ready on the new schedule.

Apple has likewise seen a surge in demand for the new notebooks, which were announced about six months ahead of the time frame for the switch to Intel's chips, outlined by Jobs last year.

Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook recently warned that the company might not be able to keep up with demand for the notebooks in the first quarter, coming off a quarter in which the company believed its customers held off on purchasing older Mac systems in anticipation of the new Macs with Intel's chips.