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Apple Gives the Mac a Boost

Updated from 8:57 a.m. to include additional analysis in the eighth and ninth paragraphs.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Though Apple (AAPL - Get Report) isn't announcing any major products until later this year, that doesn't mean we're not getting anything in the way of updates. Apple refreshed its MacBook Air line this morning, chopping $100 off the starting price.

Apple updated its MacBook Air line this morning, including Intel's (INTC - Get Report) Haswell processors, while cutting $100 off the starting price of the previous models. The 11-inch model now starts at $899, while the 13-inch version starts at $999. The high-end versions of both laptops start at $1,099 and $1,199, respectively, as Apple has boosted a couple minor specs, including battery life.

"With MacBook Air starting at $899, there's no reason to settle for anything less than a Mac," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing in a press release. "Macs have never been more popular, and today we've boosted the performance and lowered the price of MacBook Air so even more people can experience the perfect everyday notebook."

Both models will now start with a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and 128GB of flash storage, though that can be bumped up to 256GB on the higher-end models. Should consumers choose to build their new MacBook Airs, consumers can get the Intel Core i7 processor and 512GB worth of flash storage.

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Outside of that, the biggest changes were the bump in battery life for iTunes movie playback. The 11-inch model can now play nine hours, up from eight hours, and the 13-inch model can play 12 hours, up from 10 hours.

Apple sold 4.1 million Macs during its fiscal second-quarter, which contributed to total revenue of $45.6 billion. Mac accounted for $5.5 billion worth of sales during the quarter, as the company sold 5% more Macs year over year, leading to a 1% boost in revenue. On the conference call, Vice President of Finance Luca Maestri noted Macs have now gained global market share for 31 of the last 32 quarters, outpacing the weakening PC market.

CEO Timothy D. Cook noted Mac sales were particularly strong in China, with Mac units up 13%, "far outpacing IDCs PC market forecast of a negative 8%."

The move to drop prices may further expand Apple's market share in the PC market. According to research firm IDC, Apple held 10.8% of the U.S. market in the first-quarter, though those numbers were prior to Apple's fiscal second-quarter results. HP (HPQ) had the top spot domestically, owning 25.8% of the market. The research data excluded lower-cost devices, such as Chromebooks, and iPads, but includes tablets running Windows.

Apple is also expected to refresh the MacBook Air line later this year, giving the devices Retina Display, something only the MacBook Pro line currently has.

The updated Macs are available starting today, and are ready to ship in 24 hours.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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