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Apple Plans MacBook Event as $800 Laptop Rumors Swirl

Apple Plans MacBook Event as $800 Laptop Rumors Swirl

Apple has called for a show-and-tell press event on Oct. 14. True to form, the company is only hinting at what exactly it might reveal, though it did mention the word "notebooks." A newly circulating rumor suggests an $800 price point, which would be $300 cheaper than the most basic Apple notebook currently on the market.

For months, Apple fans have been salivating over the next generation of MacBook and MacBook Pros. Both the low and high ends of Apple's laptop line have aging designs that by typical Apple standards are in dire need of a refresh. The MacBook Air's clean, thin design may hint at the next generation consumer and workhorse models to come out of Cupertino, Calif. -- and it may be sooner than later.

Just as watchers began to question whether Apple would really make MacBook announcements this month or wait as late as January for the MacWorld Expo, the company quelled all concern with an invitation to journalists for an Oct. 14 announcement.

A Teaser

True to form, the invitation is teasingly vague. It sports a photo of what looks like the top lid of a MacBook Pro with an Apple logo in the middle, shined upon by a diagonal ray of light. The caption reads, "The spotlight turns to notebooks."

The invitation-only event will take place at Apple's Town Hall in Cupertino on Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PST. Like the "Let's Rock" iPod announcements in September, there's a good chance Apple will post a QuickTime video of the event for worldwide playback within 24 hours of the live presentation.

While speculation about the internal guts of the new MacBooks has been swirling for months, the hottest rumors have now focused on spy photos that hit the Web and show what appear to be aluminum casings that may or may not be carved out of a single brick of aluminum. Some believe the MacBooks will get a aluminum skin -- rather than the existing plastic -- while others have been hoping for something truly extraordinary, including a possible glass trackpad. Either way, it's widely believed that Apple will increase the size of its trackpad and include multi touch capabilities on all models.

An $800 MacBook?

Even more recent rumors suggest that Apple will drop its traditionally high -- and fairly static -- prices. Weeks ago at Apple's third-quarter financial call, the company warned investors that its gross margins would take a hit as it worked to become more competitive with some of its product line. That little hint, it turns out, might come in the form of an $800 MacBook.

Price sheets listing a dozen price points ranging from $3,100 down to $800 have been delivered to Apple stores, according to a report from The Inquisitor, which cites an unnamed though purportedly well-placed and reliable source.

An $800 price point is a cool $200 cheaper than some previous iBook models from years past and $300 less than today's current $1,099 starting price for low-end MacBooks. Indeed, if true, the price would likely be $799 to conform to Apple's typical formula.

There's a slim possibility that Apple is offering a new ultra-portable MacBook at this price. If so, the spy photos don't appear to have hit the Web just yet.

Can Apple Coast?

Apple has been gaining market share over the last 18 months. With that momentum, can the company get away with delivering more of the same -- a nice design, a few tweaks, and faster Intel processors? Or will Apple need to make some real changes to keep winning market share?

"I think Apple's biggest vulnerability right now is their high price points," Roger Kay, principal analyst of Endpoint Technologies, told MacNewsWorld.

"At this moment, I think the high price points are in jeopardy. It's certainly true they have very high-quality stuff, but they do charge a pretty penny for it," he added, noting that the latest $800 Mac notebook rumors would seem to address the problem.

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