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martes, 9 de junio de 2009

Apple Debuts Aggressively Priced iPhone 3GS, MacBooks

By Brian X. Chen and Priya Ganapati

Apple delivered several major announcements in rapid fire Monday, including iPhone and MacBook upgrades, significant price cuts and an in-depth look at its next-generation operating system.

The most anticipated announcement was the iPhone 3GS smartphone, successor to Apple’s popular iPhone 3G. The “S” stands for speed, referring to the performance boost of the new iPhone — up to two times faster than its predecessor, according to Apple.

Other items that inspired “wows” from the audience revolved around price. The current iPhone 3G is remaining in the lineup with a $100 price tag — down from $200. Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Apple’s next-generation Mac OS, will cost $30 for current Leopard users. Also, Apple upgraded the hardware of its MacBooks and lowered their prices by hundreds of dollars.

“The OS wars have finally begun,” said Mike Gartenberg, technology strategist and vice president of Interpret. “The bar has been raised once again. Apple is very well positioned in the PC space for consumers, and we can expect Apple to begin its first major onslaught in the business market.”

Traditionally, Apple has focused its Worldwide Developers Conference on software, as the event is devoted to training developers to code for Apple platforms. However, this year’s sold-out event included a heavy load of hardware-related news tailored toward impressing consumers, demonstrating that Apple is at no loss for communicating to its fans after choosing to abandon the Macworld Expo trade show.

“WWDC is the only real, public venue for Apple now,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies. “It’s their only opportunity to talk to their larger community.

The big star of WWDC was iPhone 3GS, whose improvements are internal, as the overall physical design remains the same as its predecessor’s. The 3GS introduces a digital compass for improved GPS navigation, enabling the iPhone Maps app to display directions based on which direction a user is facing. Another major addition to the handset is an improved, 3-megapixel camera, which includes autofocus, auto-white-balance and video-recording capabilities.

A less-expected new feature of iPhone 3GS is a voice-control interface. By loading an app, users will be able to dictate commands to perform various tasks, such as calling a contact or playing a song in the phone’s iTunes library.

Looking ahead, the iPhone 3GS includes support for 7.2Mbps HSDPA — a faster, next-generation network standard that many carriers plan to adopt. The 3GS will cost $200 for the 16GB model and $300 for the 32GB model.

Apple is aiming to i-vangelize as many consumers as possible by offering its current iPhone 3G smartphone for $100 beginning today. Gartenberg said this price cut is significant because it will force rivals to devise new solutions to compete.

Though the new iPhone 3GS does not come with a new look, it will still attract early adopters, Bajarin said. The price drop on the current iPhone 3G to $100 should also help expand the company’s market share in the smartphone segment. The revamped lineup of phones should help Apple pull ahead of competitors like the newly launched Palm Pre and the BlackBerry phones, Bajarin said.

“Apple is staying in the same price point as its earlier iPhone 3G, which is where all its volumes were,” Bajarin said. “Right now they are just giving buyers a range of pricing options for their phones.”

“With all the new features, the iPhone is really a Mac in a pocket,” he added. “The difference between the iPhone now and the Pre or the BlackBerry is night and day.”

Apple also slashed prices across its MacBook line. Its 15-inch MacBook Pros now start at $1,700 — $300 less than before. Previously called MacBooks, the 13-inch unibody models now also sport the MacBook Pro name, and they start at $1,200 — down from $1,300. Additionally, the MacBook Air received an upgrade and dropped to $1,500 (from $1,800).

Apple’s aggressive pricing for its MacBook line and the price drop on its lightweight MacBook Air will not compromise much on its profit margins, Bajarin said.

“They are not favoring market share over profitability in a big way,” he says. “They have already taken the pricing curve down on the unibody and chipsets, so they are building on those lower costs.”

Showing no mercy, Apple also announced a low price tag for its next-generation Mac operating system, OS X Snow Leopard. Priced at $30 for current Leopard users, the OS will sport a number of refinements. But it is still based on the earlier Leopard version’s code base, Bajarin said, which means Apple can afford to give it away for a lower price.”

The iPhone 3G and new MacBooks begin selling today with their new price tags. The iPhone 3GS is shipping June 19 — two days after the launch of the iPhone 3.0 operating system. September is the scheduled release for Snow Leopard.

Gadget Lab covered today’s announcements live from the Moscone Center, where Apple made them as part of its Worldwide Developers Conference. Scroll down for the blow-by-blow and more photos.

Photos: Jon Snyder/

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