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Apple may launch most aggressive Black Friday sale yet

With Black Friday sale information from rival PC vendors beginning to leak online, experts at Barclays Capital say they expect Apple to counter the promotions with a more aggressive than usual one-day sale, offering deep discounts on a number of Mac models.

The Friday immediately following the US Thanksgiving holiday has long been known as "Black Friday," as it represents the unofficial beginning of the holiday shopping season, or the day when retailers hold massive sales in hopes of steering their (red) losses into (black) profits.

Among the most heavily discounted electronics items poised to dominate this year's sales are low cost notebooks, according to analyst Ben Reitzes, who notes that Dell plans to offer $299 linux model via its website, while Wal-Mart markets a $299 Compaq, and Best Buy a $299 eMachines portable.

"We believe ultra-low cost notebooks will be a major draw this Black Friday as vendors look to push volumes and consumers look to trade down given the economic environment," he wrote in a report to clients Wednesday. "We have not seen any Apple Black Friday ads yet (as is customary), but expect the company to be more aggressive than usual in its one-day sale, perhaps with $100 off a few Mac models and discounts on several iPods."

The analyst also called upon Apple to "get more price aggressive in every product" for its traditional one day sale, which will run for 24 hours beginning at midnight on Thursday November 27th. Given obvious weakness in the economy, this should include the iPhone, he said, arguing that "the company’s high margins could likely absorb a few days of discounts."

Reitzes also pointed to signs that French iPhone carrier Orange will cut the 8GB iPhone 3G from 149 euros to 99 euros for the holidays and wonders "if AT&T could follow shortly here in the US."

Apple's participation in the Black Friday bonanza has seen the company hold massive 24-hour sales through its online store and brick-and-mortar retail chain since 2004. The promotions initially began with $100 discounts on the company's iMac G5s but grew to include a $101 discount on the iBook G4 in 2005.

A year later, the Cupertino-based company offered $101 off all MacBook and iMac models, $31 off its updated fifth-generation video iPods and $21 off its second-generation iPod nanos. Last year's sales offered the same $101 discount on MacBooks and iMacs but trimmed the discount on the third-generation iPod nanos to just $11.

A move towards more aggressive pricing for this year's Black Friday sale would build on a trend that began earlier this summer when Apple announced the biggest back-to-school promotion in its history.

Unlike past years when students were offered a free iPod nano worth $199 with the purchase of a qualifying Mac, this year's promotion bumped the incentive up to a $299 iPod touch — a move helped the company set a new record for single quarter Mac shipments of 2.611 million units.