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Apple resellers instate broad price cuts on MacBooks amid concerns of slowing growth

With whispers of slowing growth in Apple's Mac business gaining traction and overall sentiment surrounding the company at its lowest levels in roughly a decade, several of its largest resellers this week instated unusually steep price cuts on almost all sub-$2000 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs.

The cuts, which began at the top of the week, precede Apple's fiscal first quarter earnings release (4:30 p.m. Eastern) and conference call (5:00 p.m.) scheduled for later this afternoon, both of which are viewed by industry-watchers, analysts, and pundits alike as the most critical for the Cupertino-based company in 10 years. 

In addition to widespread concerns over Apple's capacity to maintain growth and and premium profit margins in its bread-and-butter iPhone business in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Samsung, recent data from U.S.-based market research firms have also done their part to depress sentiment surrounding the company's computer business. 

One average, analysts have extrapolated those data releases to predict that Mac sales for the three-month  period ending December will fall 4 percent year over year to 5 million units — figures that are unquestionably hampered by a roughly estimated 500,000 new iMac units that Apple was unable to push into the channel during the quarter due to well-documented production problems.

While the precise catalysts for this week's Mac price cuts is unclear, our historical Mac Price Guide data confirms the trend began at Best Buy — Apple's largest domestic brick-and-mortar retail partner — and was quickly mirrored by Apple's other top-tier partners including Amazon, B&H Photo and MacMall. In most cases, pricing now sits near or below wholesale costs for those Macs.

And while there is no hard evidence to suggest that Apple may have played a role in the reductions, Best Buy is known to be a preferred partner with which Apple often consults prior to material price drops on its products that present potential to dilute the company's premium brand in the face of consumers.

2013 Predictions
Source: KGI Securities

Alternatively, Best Buy may have made the move to help maintain robust sales of Macs through the first half of 2013 given increasingly convincing evidence and leaked product roadmaps that suggest Apple won't be ready to introduce any new Mac notebook models until very late in the second calendar quarter, or early in the third quarter. 

There's also been rumblings amongst insiders that the company's MacBook Pro Retina pricing is proving a bit too rich for average consumers in the face of today's global economy, and customers are therefore buying down the chain towards lower ASP (average selling price) models in a play to remain loyal to Apple's ecosystem. As such, Best Buy could be simply looking to capitalize on the trend in a bid for attach-rates and customer retention. 

Nevertheless, Apple's financial and disclosures this afternoon will go a long way towards validating lingering concerns about its fundamentals and future growth prospect, or give the company an opportunity to largely discount them, proven them to be overblown, and set the record straight by "changing the tone of the conversation."

In the meantime, consumers in the market for a new Mac are presented with the greatest value proposition since last summer, with new MacBook Airs starting at $873, MacBook Pros starting at $1,067, and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina display starting at $1,988. 

With MacMall's latest price drops today, the reseller dominates standalone pricing across the entire MacBook family, offering the lowest prices anywhere to AppleInsider readers who use the links in our price guides to activate the Promo Code field on MacMall's product pages and then manually applying the additional 3% Promo Code: APPINSDRMWB37994

New Macs with 3-Years of AppleCare bundled

Meanwhile, consumers interested in a 3-year Apple Protection Plan in conjunction with their new Mac purchase similarly have the best prices on the Mac+AppleCare bundles we've seen yet through B&H Photo, with combined savings of up to $427. (See our step-by-step guide to making sure you get these rock bottom prices). 

As usual, AppleInsider will provide comprehensive and extended coverage of Apple's earnings release and conference call beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern this afternoon.