With tech spending plummeting, some PC makers and resellers are frantically cutting their prices, targeting Black Friday as the launchpad for the critical holiday sales period.
, which typically keeps tight control of its pricing, appears to be tweaking its price tags, albeit through the resellers.
Apple's low-end MacBook, which has a list price of $999 on the company's Web site, is on sale for around $899 at
The company also has an ad on its Web site promising a special "one-day shopping event" on Friday. Although Apple has not revealed specific details of the promotion, the teaser says it will include a variety of Mac, iPod and iPhone gift ideas.
Apple, which launched its first sub-$1,000
last month, recently reiterated its intention to focus on notebook features rather than
At least one analyst thinks that desperate times, however, call for desperate measures, hence the resellers' price cuts.
"These moves aren't from Apple, they are from their retail partners," said Richard Shim, research manager at tech analyst IDC, referring to the offers from the likes of Best Buy. "But if these actions lead to considerable gains, we could see something
and a successful retail business, Apple could ride out the current economic downturn, but he would not dismiss the possibility of price changes.
"Apple has insulated itself very well, they have a very large fan base, and their growth is above the industry average, but they are very good at reading the writing on the wall," he said.
Apple's fourth-quarter Mac sales, although strong, dipped below analysts' expectations. The company shipped 2.6 million Macs, slightly below consensus estimates of 2.7 million, representing revenue growth of 17%.
The company didn't respond to a request for comment on its pricing strategy.
is also using Black Friday to begin its holiday pricing push, slashing $99 off the cost of its Vostro A860 notebook, which is now $349. Dell also cut prices on its Vostro 1510 notebook and Latitude E5400 and E5500 laptops, underlining its desire to grab a slice of shrinking tech spending.
In its recent
, Dell suffered a
in its Mobility group revenue, which covers notebook PCs and the even smaller mini-PCs.
Dell's desktop business is faring better, with sales of desktop PCs growing 14% year-over-year, although there are uncertain times ahead. The tech analyst firm iSuppli, for example, recently cut its 2009 and 2010 PC growth forecasts.
"I think that that what we're going to see in the fourth quarter are some very aggressive pricing moves," said IDC analyst Shim. "Now, suddenly we're in an economic situation, and the industry has all this inventory built up."
In an attempt to tap into demand from both consumers and small businesses, Dell has also lowered the price of some of its Vostro and OptiPlex desktop computers, as well as a trio of PowerEdge servers.
Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and it marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Recent years have also seen the post-Thanksgiving Monday referred to as "Cyber Monday," marking the start of online holiday shopping.
is another PC maker cutting its prices. The Palo Alto, Calif., company is offering numerous rebates on its Pavilion notebooks, some of which end on Saturday.
Confronted with a credit crunch and an increasingly uncertain economy, however, consumers are likely to exercise much more caution during the 2008 holiday season, according to accounting firm BDO Seidman.
The company's recent survey of 100 chief marketing officers reveals that U.S. businesses are bracing for an extremely tough holiday shopping period. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow just 1.2% and 2.4%, respectively, this year, compared with 8.3% and 21% in 2007, it said.
Shares of Apple rose $3.85, or 4.2%, to $94.65 in Wednesday trading, as the Nasdaq rose 3.6%. Dell's stock was trading up 69 cents, or 6.6%, at $11.11.