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Apple finally brings down the prices of Macs

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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Apple finally brings down the prices of Macs

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

Home computing is taking a big step tomorrow. Apple, creator of the powerful but expensive Macintosh computers, is unveiling a line of much cheaper Macs. For the first time, the Macintosh has a chance of being a genuine "people's computer," one that typical families can afford.

The Oct. 15 introduction, accompanied by one of the biggest ad campaigns in U.S. history, is costing Apple $40 million. On TV and in print ads, as many as 100 million Americans are about to find out that they can own a Macintosh for the same price as an ordinary PC.

The huge price cuts will have an effect beyond Apple, which has only about 9 percent of the U.S. personal computer market. Manufacturers of regular PCs, which adhere to the old IBM standard, will now have to offer cheaper prices or more features to compete with their new opponent in the low-cost market.

Macintosh computers will now cost as little as $700 to $800 for the small model, which has a built-in, black-and-white screen. A new color model, using a separate color monitor as IBM-type computers do, will cost about $1,800 to $2,000. Other new models with more features will cost more.

Prices for the older models had ranged from $1,400 to $4,000 and more. Apple is able to cut prices because it has trimmed manufacturing costs while finding ways to make the new Macs work better.

But the company also admits that it has decided to slash its own profit margin, which until now has been the fattest in the computer industry. Company executives said privately a few years back that computers Apple was selling for $1,600 actually cost less than $600 to make.

The new Macintosh computers are likely to draw many hundreds of thousands of Americans into home computing for the first time, and this is expected to give a boost to the sluggish computer industry.

Unlike standard PCs, Macs are easy to use "right out of the box." They use pictures on their screens to represent choices, and they come with a mouse—a palm-size device with a roller-ball on the bottom—that moves a pointer on the screen. You merely click a button on the mouse after pointing at an object, and the Mac does the rest.

Macs are also easy to hook up into networks, in which many computers work together while sharing a single printer or a single data storage device. This makes them idea for office use, although Apple has had a hard time convincing American businesses that they should add Macs to their IBM-compatible computers.

The hottest-selling new Macs are likely to be the two price leaders—the black-and-white Macintosh Classic, which replaces the current Mac Plus and has a list price of $1,000; and the color Macintosh LC, which takes the place of the basic Mac II and has a list price of $2,500. Discounts could bring the actual prices down to as little as $700 for the Classic and $1,800 for the LC.

In addition to introducing new computers, Apple reportedly is seeking deals that would allow other companies to build their own versions of the cheapest Mac. Apple has discouraged such cloning of its Macs for many years, but now wants help from other companies.

Apple is also working with Japanese electronics companies to create a notebook-size Mac laptop. The current Macintosh portable is too heavy for most users, weighing four to eight times as much as many IBM-compatible laptops. Sony admits that it has been negotiating with Apple to build the new laptop, but no deal has been signed yet.

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