Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple introduces new line of laptops.

Apple introduces new line of laptops.

The New York Times (10/15, B11, Markoff) reports, "Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chief executive, announced a new line of Apple laptop computers on Tuesday that he said were made with a new manufacturing process." Apple will begin selling new "MacBook Pro and MacBook portable computers that are carved from 2.5-pound blocks of aluminum," which company officials say will "allow Apple to build more rigid and reliable products." During a press conference, "Jobs gave his audience...a tutorial on manufacturing and industrial design." The introduction of the "unibody enclosures," along with several other new features, follows an announcement earlier this year from "the company's chief financial officer," who "said the company would shift its business model toward lower-profit-margin products in the future." However, since "Apple did not announce products with significantly lower prices, speculation is still centered on products in new categories."

USA Today (10/15, Graham) adds that the company is "dropping the price of its entry-level Macbook to $999." Additionally, the company's updated "MacBook and MacBook Pro notebook line" will now be equipped "new graphics cards from Nvidia that Apple says will dramatically increase performance." The majority of the new laptops will feature "the Nvidia GeForce 9400 M chip and have been redesigned with...back-lit LED displays." By including "the new graphics chip, Apple has essentially brought the faster power to the MacBook line for every model but the $999 MacBook." Furthermore, "both the MacBooks and Pro (with the exception of the $999 MacBook) have a new 'smooth glass' trackpad, offering the ability to click anywhere on the pad for navigation." The article notes that "many analysts...had expected bigger price drops from Apple, possibly as low as $800 for the entry-level MacBook, but that didn't happen."

The Wall Street Journal (10/15, Kane) quotes Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Gene Munster, who "said the pricing could indicate that Apple feels confident about demand despite economic concerns. Apple's stock has declined about 45 percent this year on worries that economic slowdowns in North America and Europe are beginning to affect Apple." However, "in the quarter through September, Apple shipped nearly 30 percent more PCs than it did a year earlier and increased its market share to 9.5 percent from 7.7 percent, research firm Gartner reported yesterday."

The AP (10/15, Mintz) reports, "Apple's decision to work more closely with Nvidia for its graphics processing could be a needed boost for the Silicon Valley chip maker," which earlier this year "disclosed a major problem with an unspecified number of its laptop chips that were already built into computers from several manufacturers. The problem caused the chips to suddenly fail, leaving users with badly mangled video or no video at all." The issue affected Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Apple computers. "Nvidia hasn't recalled the chips, and the computer makers have so far said they won't replace all the problem chips -- just the ones that fail.

Apple says that the new laptops are "designed with the environment in mind," the Christian Science Monitor (10/15) notes. "Unlike earlier models, the displays of the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros contain no arsenic or mercury." Additionally, "the computers...contain no brominated flame retardants," the new displays consume less energy, "and the cables contain no PVCs. Furthermore, "Apple claims that the new laptops -- being mostly glass and aluminum -- are 'almost entirely recyclable,'" and the company "claims to offer recycling services in 'nearly all countries' where it does business." The company also "has disclosed the carbon footprint of its MacBooks." The article notes that the company does not "say anything about beryllium, cadmium, and antimony -- poisonous metals that are common in many electronics." The Detroit Free Press (10/15, Wendland) also reports the story.

In Wired's (10/14) Gadget Lab blog, Brian Chen wrote, "Despite a raft load of nifty new features, Apple's new Mac notebooks will have a hard time moving off store shelves during the economic crisis, industry analysts say," citing the company's few price reductions to its line of notebook computers as insufficient "to remain competitive in the face of a broad financial collapse." This is despite the fact that the company announced that it now claims "39 percent of the notebook market in education, surpassing Dell, one of its major competitors." Vijay Rakesh, a ThinkPanmure analyst, said it was "unlikely Apple's notebook refresh will enable Apple to retain its grip on this market segment." Rakesh also noted "that Apple still has yet to set foot in the netbook market." Jobs said that "the netbook category is too immature for Apple to enter."