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Friday, November 30, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Piper ups likelihood of ultra-portable at Macworld, comments on iPhone

Investment bank Piper Jaffray said Friday it now believes there is as an 85 percent likelihood that Apple at the upcoming Macworld Expo in January will finally take the wraps off its long-rumored ultra-portable MacBook.

"As Macworld approaches, reports of an ultraportable MacBook are following patterns of previously expected products that eventually materialized," analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to clients. "We believe these reports are legitimate and continue to expect Apple to introduce a MacBook with a significantly smaller form factor."

Earlier this month, AppleInsider cited well-respected sources who, following nearly two years of internal development on Apple's part, are finally pinning the thin and lightweight 13-inch sub-notebook for an unveiling on January 15, 2008 as part of the company's annual Macworld Expo announcements.

Munster, who dubbed the ultra-portable MacBook his "hot topic of the month," had previously estimated that there was a 75 percent chance the notebook would make an appearance at the conference.

Meanwhile, the analyst also used his note to clients on Friday to offer a roundup of recent ongoings with Apple's overseas iPhone launches, noting that Cupertino-based company's three carrier partners in the Europe each expect to sell about 100,000 iPhones by the end of the year.

"Collectively, we were expecting the European iPhone launches to add 250,000 to December iPhone sales, but if Apple sells 100,000+ iPhones in the UK, Germany and France, there would likely be upside to our iPhone estimates," he advised clients. "Thus far, it appears as though iPhone units in Europe are not exceeding the carriers' expectations; however, the carriers' estimates are meaningfully higher than our initial estimate of 250,000 in Europe."

Also, Munster said that Verizon's announcement this week that it will open its network up to "any application on any device" in 2008 will have "virtually no impact" on Apple's exclusive deal with AT&T and its revenue sharing agreement given that Verizon's network is CDMA and the iPhone only operates on GSM networks.

Long term, however, the move makes it easier for Google's Android platform to proliferate; as such it may indirectly impact the iPhone, but at this point the impact of Android on the iPhone is difficult to predict, the analyst told clients.

"The Verizon announcement coincides with Google's Android plans and the formation of the Open Handset Alliance, OHA, of which Verizon is a member," he wrote. "While it is too early to tell, this could be the beginning of a new chapter in the wireless market. Microsoft has taken its traditional software-centric approach offering Windows Mobile to any device maker wishing to partner with Microsoft, [while] Apple has opted for a closed ecosystem in which it controls the entire experience (hardware, software, phone activation, etc.), and Google has invested in an open sourced platform with Verizon as the open carrier."

Nevertheless, Munster said it will be interesting to see what wireless users come to expect over the next several years with those three major players competing for customer support.

"If consumer demand shifts toward an open system based on choice, then Apple's closed agreement with AT&T could become a limiting issue," he added. "However, we believe customers also appreciate and need simplicity. Apple and AT&T's closed system enables a user to buy the phone activate and load it with media in a few easy steps, which is made possible by the closed nature of the iPhone ecosystem."

The Piper Jaffray analyst maintained his Buy rating and $250 price target on shares of Apple.

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Black Friday Mac pricing matrix (find the best prices)

While Apple on Friday announced modest price cuts on a handful of Macs for its 24 hour sale, several of the company's authorized resellers have stepped up to offer much steeper discounts, including OnSale.com and ClubMac, which have cut $200 off some unibody MacBooks and $300 off some unibody MacBook Pros. Our pricing matrix (below) highlights the best deals on each of the current Mac models.

With Best Buy's 4-day Mac sale coming to a close Thursday at midnight, both OnSale.com and ClubMac have moved in to fill the void, offering identical pricing and the lowest prices we've seen on 13 of the 16 current Mac models. MacMall's own Black Friday deals match those from OnSale and Club Mac on 9 models, while Amazon.com offers the best deal on the 8-Core Mac Pro.

We've laid out the below Black Friday Mac Pricing Matrix to make it easy for readers to locate the lowest price on the Mac model of their choice. The best deals are highlighted in bold. The "Discount" column to the far right reflects the amount of savings between Apple's suggested retail price and the lowest price offered Friday for that respective model.

Each price is a link that will take you to the retailer's product page for the specific Mac model.

Black Friday: Office 2008, Parallels, Quicken, Adobe

A handful of Mac software developers are offering special savings for Black Friday, including Parallels, Intuit, and Adobe. The deepest discount comes from Microsoft, which has cut the price of Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition by $330, bringing the cost down to $169.99.

Office 2008 for Mac

Microsoft, via Amazon.com, is running a 24-hour special on Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition, lopping 66% off the suggested retail price, which reduces the cost to $169.99.

Similarly, Microsoft has also cut 63% off Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition Upgrade for owners of Office 2004 for Mac, which brings the cost down to $109.99.

Also on sale for $109.99 is Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Home & Student Edition — a 27% discount.

Save $5 off Parallels 4.0

Parallels is offering $5 off Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0 when you use this link, brining the cost down to $74.99. Please note that the above link automatically adds a $6.99 "Extended Download" option to your shopping cart, but you can simply remove this item by clicking the "X".

Quicken 2007 for Mac

Intuit is offering 23% off Quicken for Mac 2007 — the latest version of the financial software for the Mac — bringing the cost down to $33.99. It's available on CD or as a direct download.

QuickBooks 2009 for Mac is also on sale through Amazon.com for $179.99 — a modest $20 discount.

Adobe

Adobe is offering 30% (or $100) off Lightroom 2 when you purchase the software along with a full or upgrade version of Photoshop CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended, or Creative Suite® containing Photoshop CS4 or Photoshop CS4 Extended.