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Cheaper iMacs, Retina MacBook Air make best contenders for WWDC reveals

Gregg Keizer | May 28, 2014
More price cuts would prove Apple's serious about gaining share.

A similar approach would yield a Retina MacBook Air -- perhaps one, as some have suggested, with a smaller 12-in. screen -- priced at $1,399, $400 above the lowest-priced 13-in. non-Retina and $200 more than the upper-end 13-in. Air, leaving those models' prices undisturbed.

April's price cuts on the Air would then be viewed in hindsight as more than Apple's largess, or more than an attempt to increase sales, but also as a way to make room under the price umbrella for the even-more-expensive Retina Air.

And according to MacRumor's buyers guide, which tracks the intervals between Apple hardware refreshes, it's coming on time for a MacBook Pro relaunch: The last was in October 2013.

A price cut for the MacBook Pro line -- again $100 would be in tune with Apple's practice -- wouldn't be out of character for Apple of late. The result would be a low-end 13-in. at $1,199, also the price of the top-end MacBook Air of the same screen size, with the 15-in. line starting at $1,899.

Price cuts, although historically unusual for Apple, have become more common. In February 2013, for instance, Apple dropped prices of the MacBook Pro by as much as 15%.

"They've got slow growth in PC sales like everyone, and lower prices help. I think Apple made this move [because] it had seen disappointing results because of the high [Mac] prices," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, about the 2013 price reductions.

Like all personal computer makers, Apple has struggled to maintain sales growth in the face of competition from tablets and smartphones. In the March 2014 quarter, Apple grew Mac sales by 5% year-over-year, while the industry contracted by 4%, according to research firm IDC. But Apple's first-quarter growth paled in comparison to the double-digit gains the Mac posted from mid-2009 through the end of 2011.

Continued price cuts would not only drive higher sales volume, but also provide proof that Apple intended to take advantage of stumbles by its chief OS rival, Microsoft, which has had trouble getting customers excited about Windows 8.

Apple will webcast its WWDC keynote address on Monday, starting at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET).


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