Apple's Intel Era Expands

The Macintosh maker begins shipping notebooks running on the Core processor.
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Apple Computer

(AAPL) - Get Report

is rolling out its first notebook computers using

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

processors just when it said it would.

Of course, the company left itself a pretty big window.

Apple said Tuesday that it has begun shipping units of its new MacBook Pro line of laptop computers targeted at the professional market. When Apple

announced the MacBook Pro line in January at the Macworld conference, CEO Steve Jobs projected that the company wouldn't begin shipping the computers until sometime in February -- rather than immediately -- but didn't give a specific date.

Some analysts were concerned about the effect the delayed launch would have on Apple's overall computer sales. Last month, Apple itself

predicted a soft quarter, relative to analysts' expectations, in part because of the delay in shipping the new notebook line. As it stands, the company is starting to ship the notebooks about halfway through its fiscal second quarter.

Even if the shipping date wasn't much of a surprise, Apple did have some good news for customers. It is upgrading the chips in all models that it is shipping to faster processors. The base model of the MacBook Pro includes a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, instead of the previously announced 1.67 GHz chip. And the higher-end model incorporates a 2.0 GHz processor -- upgradeable to a 2.16 GHz chip -- instead of the 1.83 GHz version.

While Apple has begun shipping the notebooks, the company will apparently need some time to get caught up with back orders. On its Web site, Apple warns potential MacBook Pro purchasers that it will need three to four weeks to ship. In contrast, the company promises to ship the PowerBook G4, the model the MacBook Pro is replacing, within 24 hours.

After more than a decade of offering computers based on PowerPC processors made by

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Freescale Semiconductor

(FSL)

, Apple

announced last year that it plans to move all of its Macintosh computers to processors made by Intel. Many analysts have lauded the move, since Intel's chip architecture is the industry standard, and as such, should allow Apple to offer faster computers at lower prices.

Last month, Apple rolled out the first of its Intel-based computers, an upgraded version of its iMac, some five months earlier than company officials had previously forecast. The company plans to complete its move to Intel processors by the end of the year.

In recent trading, shares of Apple were up $1.80, or about 3%, to $66.51.