Analyst: New MacBooks will start at $899-$999

In a report to clients Thursday, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster added some meat to the bare-bones invitation Apple sent out a couple hours earlier. (See here and here.)

The most important news, according to Munster, is that Apple for the first time since it discontinued the iBook will be offering its premium notebook computers below the psychologically-important $1,000 barrier. Specifically:

  • Higher quality, lower-priced MacBooks. Munster expects the new MacBooks, which currently sell for $1,099 and come in black or white, to be clad in a new aluminum casing with a gesture-based touchpad and to sell for $899 to $999. “In other words, we expect the new MacBooks to be a meaningful upgrade with an [average sales price] 9% to 18% lower.”
  • New MacBook Pros. Munster also expects Apple to introduce redesigned MacBook Pros at the same or slightly lower price. The current MacBook Pro design was introduced almost 3 years ago at $1,999. The new machines, he writes, will likely be thinner and include a more-sophisticated, gesture-based trackpad. He estimates they will start at $1,899.
  • New MacBook Airs. Munster expects Apple to introduce new MacBook Airs with updated specs, but doesn’t offer any further detail.
  • No Tablet Mac. “While we are confident that Apple will eventually bring its touchscreen technology from the iPhone to the Mac,” he writes, “we do not expect to see a touchscreen Mac this year.”

Piper Jaffray is sticking with its target price of $250 a share. In midday trading Thursday, Apple (AAPL) was up 3% to just over $92.

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