President Obama mentioned Apple's plans to make some Mac computers in America during the State of the Union last night, and today Apple's following up that Mac momentum with an announcement that it's lowering prices on some of its MacBooks.
The MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which was first introduced last June, is being refreshed with new processor options and the smaller, 13-inch version is now $200 cheaper.
You may recall that we bemoaned the $1,699 starting price of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina when we reviewed it in November. Now the 128GB version will start at $1,499, and $1,699 will buy you the version with a faster 2.6GHz processor and 256GB of storage. Apple's also dropping the price of the 256GB 13-inch MacBook Air to $1,399 from $1,499.
The larger 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina display doesn't get a price drop -- it still starts at $2,199 -- but is getting some new internal organs. It will be available with a faster 2.4GHz and 2.7GHz quad-core processors and up to 16GB of memory.
So why is Apple lowering prices now on these computers? According to Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies, it has to do with the falling prices of components -- RAM, flash storage, etc.
"When prices of components come down, they are willing to lower prices when they can," he said. "We don't expect Apple to make the cheapest products on the market, but they are committed to being affordable in the market."
In its last quarter, Apple reported lower sales of Mac products (4.1 million, down from 5.2 million in the same quarter the year before). Tim Cook attributed it to component supply and the iMac hitting shelves later in the quarter than he would have liked. He also said that Apple was aware that the iPad was cannibalizing part of the Mac business.
"I think cannibalization is a huge opportunity for us," Cook said on an Apple earnings call. "Our base philosophy is to never fear cannibalization. If we do, somebody else will just cannibalize it… We know iPad has cannibalized some Macs, and that doesn't worry us."
Bajarin said he doesn't believe the price drops on the Macs today have anything to do with those Mac earnings, however.
"I don't think they looked at their last Mac quarter and started freaking out," he said. "The PC business is in decline; they know no one is going to turn that around."
Last month Apple announced a $799 version of the iPad with a 128GB flash drive, which gives it as much storage as some laptops. Apple, unlike Microsoft with its Windows 8 operating system, continues to keep its laptop and iPad lines separate, even though some iPad features have made their way over to the Mac. Cook has famously said converging the two would be like trying to combine a refrigerator and a toaster.
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