Apple VARs laud new MacBook Pro pricing but long for iPhone business

Lower-priced MacBook Pros coming out of Apple developers' conference could spur sales, but Apple resellers want iPhone sales opportunities.

VARs say new products out of last week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2009 will boost demand for the company's lineup, but many of them are still smarting because the hottest product of all -- the iPhone -- remains beyond their reach.

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For Apple resellers, the two most significant pieces of news out of the event was the upgrade of the 13-inch MacBook to MacBook Pro status, making it more suitable for business users, and the Mac OS X Snow Leopard update.

Apple cut the price for the high-end, 15-inch MacBook Pros to $1,700 from $2,000. And the old "unibody" MacBook, now the 13-inch MacBook Pro, is now $1,200, down from $1,300. The basic MacBook is still $1,000.

"The MacBook Pro was a bit of a surprise," said Michael Oh, founder and president of Tech Superpowers Inc., a Boston Apple reseller. "Everything was focused on the iPhone and the possible return of Steve Jobs." Oh noted that resellers will likely see increased sales from the MacBook Pro upgrade at its new price. He added, "There is great potential in the Snow Leopard."

Janice Kempf, owner of Clear Link, an Apple reseller, isn't sure Snow Leopard is good news for resellers. "I think that people will simply go online and download it, which is not especially helpful for resellers. But it's great for consumers."

The MacBook upgrade, however, could benefit resellers since its lithium-polymer battery and keyboard backlight could boost MacBook sales. The 13-inch and 15-inch upgraded Pros now boast seven hours of battery life, an SD memory card slot and a FireWire high-speed connection.

Resellers still await the iPhone opportunity

The unveiling of the iPhone 3G S, however, was a mixed bag for Apple resellers because they can't sell it. Since their launch two years ago, iPhones have only been available through Apple and AT&T stores.

Still, the new iPhone will have some positive spillover effects for the Apple channel, said David Lerner, Apple specialist at Tekserve Corp., an Apple reseller. This model promises 3G broadband Internet, video recording and speech recognition capabilities. To jumpstart consumer demand, the price for the previous iPhone 3G dropped to $99 from $199, and the new 3G S starts at $199 for the 16-gigabyte version.

"Although we are not yet able to sell iPhones, we think they are continuing to spread the Apple ease-of-use message and that less expensive iPhones will help introduce many more people to the benefits of the Mac platform," Lerner said.

While Apple retail stores will profit from the recent upgrades, Apple resellers may not reap all of the same benefits.

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