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Apple unveils sleeker MacBook laptops

Electronics giant looks to overcome worries of a consumer spending slowdown with a new line of MacBooks.

By Scott Moritz, writer
Last Updated: October 15, 2008: 8:31 AM ET

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The new MacBook Pro comes with a faster chip and a more durable shell.

(Fortune) -- Apple announced Tuesday a new line of MacBook laptops in the hopes of juicing sales at a time when investors are increasingly nervous about a consumer spending slowdown.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, speaking at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., unveiled two new MacBooks - a 15-inch model for $1,599 and a 13.3-inch model for $1,299.

As expected, Jobs also cut the price of its entry-level MacBook to $999 from $1,099, a partial concession to industry analysts who have been pointing to the success of lower-priced laptops in a more challenging economy.

Apple also announced a new MacBook Pro with a faster chip and a thin aluminum "unibody" shell, which is intended to make the notebook sturdier.

The MacBook Pro will cost $1,999 for a 15.4 inch model and $2,499 for one with more memory and a bigger hard drive. The price range remains the same as the previous MacBook Pros.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) shares fell 6%. While the broader market was also down, investors expressed disappointment that Jobs did not cut the price of the MacBook by more than $100. (See "The $800 rumor that spoiled Apple's party")

Mac computers are Apple's main - and increasingly important - source of revenue. While sales of iPods are still growing, the music player's share of the company's business has been shrinking. The iPhone, while hugely popular, doesn't contribute much yet to the company's bottom line.

Apple says it has 17.6% of retail PC market in the United States. Its revenue share, since Apple's computers are more expensive, is about 31%, according to Apple.

In recent weeks, concerns about the spreading credit crisis have hit Apple and other PC rivals, including Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500), hard. Apple shares are down 44% so far this year.

Apple is also facing mounting competition in the smartphone market. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) is rolling out its first mobile operating system on HTC phones next month, and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) is sell more handsets to mainstream consumers. To top of page

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