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Apple Introduces ‘Affordable’ Desktop Line

In a significant nod to the recession, Apple touted the affordability of its new machines, a departure for a company used to focusing intensely on performance and design.

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) -- Apple Inc. introduced a refreshed line of Macintosh desktop computers Tuesday that the company touted as more affordable, even though price tags for all but one model top $1,000.

The rollout, which many analysts expected to come this year, included a price cut to the low end of the iMac line of desktops with built-in monitors. A version with a 20-inch screen starts at $1,199, $300 less than the previous generation. The 24-inch model starts at $1,499.

Apple unveiled a long-rumored update to the Mac Mini, a petite computer sold without a monitor, keyboard or mouse. The company's cheapest computer, at $599, was updated with a faster graphics processor and the ability to run more than one monitor at a time. In a press release, Apple also promoted the Mini's energy efficiency and said it draws less than 13 watts of power when idle, or about one-tenth the power of a typical machine.

The company also overhauled its professional-grade work horse, the Mac Pro, with a quad-core processor from Intel Corp., while cutting its price by $300 to $2,499. An eight-core version starts at $3,299.

Apple has long focused on selling higher-end computers to consumers willing to pay extra for beautiful design. To date, Apple has made few concessions to the global economic crisis that's crimping consumer spending, and strong sales overseas during the holiday quarter helped offset a slower shopping season in the United States.

Apple's Mac line, which also includes laptops, fared better than the overall PC market in the last three months of 2008.

But Apple's moderate price changes don't seem to reflect the growing severity of the downturn, which could make 2009 the worst year on record for computer sales, according to estimates out Monday from research group Gartner Inc.

And so far, Apple has stayed away from the one fast-growing PC category, netbooks, or cheap, low-powered notebooks that have been a hit with recession-bitten consumers. Those machines start well below $300.

In a research note Tuesday, UBS analyst Maynard Um wrote that "investors may have been hoping for greater price cuts at the low end."

New Apple products have usually driven Apple's shares higher, but Um said he believes worries about the economy may dampen their enthusiasm this time. Apple shares edged up $1.68 to $89.62 in afternoon trading.

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