Apple's 'product transition' comment fuels speculation

But lower prices unlikely, say analysts

His reasoning on the Apple TV, McGuire added, came from the continued presence of the product -- which Apple CEO Steve Jobs at one time virtually dismissed as a "hobby" product in the company's line -- building competition by set-top box makers and Apple's emphasis on the consumer market.

Or, he added, perhaps Apple will aggressively lower prices in an attempt to wrangle more market share, though he gave that move much longer odds. "I don't buy that they'll all of a sudden get the religion of the cheap PC," said McGuire. "That would be a more fundamental change for them."

According to McGuire's fellow Gartner analysts, Apple was the third-largest seller of computers in the US during the second quarter, lagging behind only Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Gottheil agreed that it's unlikely Apple would drop prices dramatically, though it might trim the price of the MacBook Pro. "What Apple won't do, until the market forces it, is lower the price on the entry-level machines," he said.

Some analysts simply refused to play the game of "Guess What Apple Will Do."

"They could have been talking about anything," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "All it is is guesswork at this point."

What Apple regularly does -- and did this time -- is get people to talk about its products, Gartenberg continued. "[Oppenheimer's statements] had the desired effect, didn't they? They got a lot of people talking about the company."

"That's their genius," McGuire agreed. "Now they've put a couple of different markets on alert. Is it the iPhone, the [iPod] touch? The Apple TV? MacBook? They've essentially caused some concern in several quarters about what they might do."

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