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Thursday, October 09, 2008, 11:05 am PT (02:05 pm ET)

Piper Jaffray says new MacBooks could be priced from $899

The stars are aligning for Apple to transition its 13-inch MacBook family into more of a premium product while simultaneously slashing prices on new models by as much as 18 percent, according to investment bank Piper Jaffray.

Reacting to Apple's announcement that it plans to hold a special notebook event on its campus next Tuesday, analyst Gene Munster told clients he believes the big news will surround a revamp of the company's entry-level MacBook line with prices starting at $899 or $999.

"We expect the new MacBooks to be cheaper. However, it is likely that the new MacBooks will be a more premium product (with new aluminum casing and gesture-based touchpad)," he wrote. "In other words, we expect the new MacBooks to be a meaningful upgrade with an average selling price 9 percent to 18 percent lower [than today's models]."

Similarly, Munster is also expecting a complete redesign of the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, which are likely to carry an $1899 entry-level price tag. Among the new models' selling points will be a thinner design and more sophisticated gesture-based touchpad, he said.

While the analyst isn't expecting Apple to add a new product to its MacBook family, he believes the company will also use the event to update the specs of its ultra-thin MacBook Air. Expectations for a Mac with touchscreen technology should be sidelined for a later date, however.

"While we are confident that Apple will eventually bring its touchscreen technology from the iPhone to the Mac, we do not expect to see a touchscreen Mac this year," he told clients.

Munster maintained his Buy rating and $250 price target on shares of Apple, saying next week's event should serve as a catalyst for the company's stock price.