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Apple preps $400, $500 PowerBook price cuts

Paving way for new models?

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Expect Apple to cut its Titanium PowerBook G4 prices by up to 15 per cent - possibly in preparation for new, updated versions of the popular notebook.

The cuts - $500 off the $3499 500MHz PowerBook (a 14 per cent cut) and $400 off the 400MHz $2599 (down 15 per cent) - will be made any day now, according to a US Mac reseller source cited by CNET.

You can see the tag line already: 'We knocked dollar off for every megahertz of clock speed!' It'll be something like that, anyway.

When will the cuts come? The source didn't say precisely, but Apple's current external CD-RW drive freebie ends today, cut short from its original completion date, 3 September.

That, some reckon, points to price cuts this weekend. Price cuts are often made just before new hardware introductions. Updated PowerBooks G4s have been rumoured to be in development for some months now. Possibilities for the new notebooks include not only faster processors, more memory and bigger hard drives, but the addition of an internal CD-RW drive - the current models have DVD units - and even Maglite-style coloured enclosures.

Interestingly, Web site MacOS Rumors claims that Apple is not only having problems getting a CD-RW unit to fit into the PowerBook's enclosure, but faster PowerPC G4-class processor are proving difficult to integrate too.

Apple's only choice to boost the speed of the PowerBook G4 is the PowerPC 7440, a low-power version of the 7450 currently driving its desktop Power Mac line. The 7440 is available in 600MHz and 700MHz versions, but requires a 133MHz system bus. The 7440 may be a low-power part, but it still pumps out a lot more heat than the 7400 chip used in the current PowerBooks, which use a 100MHz system bus.

MacOS Rumours offers the 7410 as an option, but that low-power CPU doesn't run any faster than the 7400, so won't be much help to Apple.

Whatever, the site reckons Apple won't these problems solved for at least six weeks. That might not stop Apple launching new PowerBooks at the Seybold conference - company marketing chief Phil Schiller is doing the keynote - in early September, though, and perhaps the new pricing of the original models if they don't cut in this weekend. Certainly, no new hardware will be announced by Steve Jobs at Apple Expo Paris, because the man's said so. But that doesn't rule out a Seybold launch.

We're not entirely convinced Apple will launch new PowerBooks then, but it remains a possibility. More likely, we reckon, the company will focus on the new Quicksilver desktops and Mac OS X 10.1 as a media creation platform, as will Jobs at Apple Expo Paris. ®

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