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3/3/2009
03:23 PM
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Apple Refreshes iMac, Mac Mini

The company also released new versions of its AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi Base Station and the Time Capsule backup system for the Mac.

Apple on Tuesday released a refresh of its iMac and Mac Mini product lines that boosts performance, memory, and storage, but doesn't offer major price cuts despite the economic recession.

In introducing faster processors and better graphics in the all-in-one desktops, the consumer electronics maker brought better value within the same price range as the older models. For example, a new 24-inch iMac with a 2.66-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB of DDR3 memory, a 640-GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics is priced at $1,499, which is the same as one of the older 20-inch iMacs.

Apple also released a long-awaited upgrade of the Mac Mini, the company's least-expensive desktop. A major improvement in the system, which measures 6.5 by 6.5 by 2 inches, is the GeForce 9400M that delivers five times better graphics performance than the older Mini, according to Apple. Besides the Mini's size, Apple also touts its energy efficiency, claiming it draws less than 13 watts of power when idle.

For Apple to maintain the same price range for the iMac line is no surprise, given that the company continues to target the higher end of the home computer market. Apple fans typically delay purchases during hard times, rather than buy less-expensive PCs running Microsoft Windows. Whether others will choose Apple over PCs, despite the higher price in today's cash-strapped environment, remains to be seen.

Offering a 24-inch iMac for the same price as a previous 20-inch model can certainly be considered a price cut, but it's unlikely to make Apple more attractive to consumers or schools, both major customers.

"It's their best effort at adjusting the price, but their computers are still more expensive than other systems," Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa said.

If schools get squeezed harder as a result of budget cuts, then Apple could find itself losing sales. "Mac systems are going to be more expensive than Windows systems, so how much Apple can be sustainable in the education market is a big question," Kitagawa said.

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