Tech Rumor of the Day: Apple

With netbooks on the rise, Apple may unveil cheaper versions of its MacBook and iMac, the AppleInsider blog says.
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Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

is said to be planning cheaper versions of its MacBook and iMac offerings in an attempt to combat the growing popularity of netbooks and boost its share of the personal computer market.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the

AppleInsider

blog says that Apple will unveil "affordable versions" of the MacBook and iMac during the coming months, although Apple refused to comment on this when contacted by

TheStreet.com

.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has constantly reiterated its focus on features rather than price, although

it launched

its first sub-$1,000 laptop last year.

The $999 13-inch MacBook is Apple's cheapest laptop, and the company offers an entry-level 20-inch iMac for $1,199.

Like other tech firms, Apple has felt the impact of the tech spending slowdown, which may drive a shift in its strategy.

Apple's Mac sales fell for the first time in five years during its recent

second quarter

, and overall computer revenue declined 16% from year-ago levels. Tellingly, the combined average selling price for Macs, including laptops, was $1,320, down 6% sequentially from $1,400 in the prior quarter.

In addition to the tough economy, Apple also faces stiff

competition

from the growing

netbook

market, although the company has resisted pressure to offer its own versions of the technology.

Apple, which competes with

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

in the PC market, is seen as a

key indicator

of consumer spending, but is keen to maintain its air of exclusivity.

The company's COO Tim Cook even used Apple's second-quarter conference call to aim a kick at mini-computers.

"When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience, and not something that we would put the Mac brand on," he said.

AppleInsider

, again citing people familiar with the matter, says that cheaper Macs will be an "interim solution" while the company formulates its long-term response to netbooks. This is rumored to center on a

"tablet"

computer, although the blog says that this project "is taking considerably longer to complete than once anticipated."

Apple again refused to comment when

TheStreet.com

asked about the "tablet," strategy, although the blogosphere is rife with talk of a 10-inch touchscreen device that could arrive later this year.