Apple’s Mac rises again. Why?

Economy, schmeconomy.

In the midst of the worst U.S. recession in 27 years, Apple — ever the trailblazer — unveiled a new line of its aesthetically pleasing and — quite frankly — financially-straitening Mac desktop computers, canvassing the entire market spectrum starting from Mac Minis at under $600 to an all-singing, all-dancing, 8-core space-shuttle-launch-capable Mac Pro for a cool $3,299.

At first glance, it would seem Apple’s caved in to pressure and finally lowered prices on its flagship computers: the company says its new top-of-the-line Mac Pro comes $300 cheaper than predecessors, while still boasting cutting-edge performance with two of Intel’s quad-core Xeon processors and 6 GB of memory upgradeable to 32 GB. Apple’s reluctance to sacrifice margins — because it makes it that much harder to rebound once the economy does — has been legendary.

But for perspective — that sort of money can get you Dell’s latest, next-to-most-powerful gaming engine — albeit sans display — a high-performance, fully tricked-out machine capable of running Crysis with all video options maxed out and still find time to pick up the groceries on the side. (Specifications:

Why is Apple choosing to unveil new products in the depths of a recession? Perhaps because the company has been under pressure for months since investors’ and consumers’ attention shifted from the company’s innovative offerings to CEO Steve Jobs’ health problems. Lifting the lid on a bunch of new desktops might not have the same cachet as, say, introducing the iPhone, but it sends a strong signal to a consumer market used by now to fielding sales calls and discounting bonanzas.

(Photo: Reuters)

Apple annual meeting proves entertaining

It is certainly not your average annual meeting that sees shareholders burst into a spontaneous round of “Happy Birthday” for an absent CEO.

That “could only happen at an Apple shareholder meeting, you’re not going to get that anywhere else, that’s why these meetings are so fun,” said Matthew Rafat, a lawyer and shareholder. Still, he acknowledged, “this year it was less lively with the absence of Steve Jobs.”

It was up to COO Tim Cook to rouse the faithful. While much of the attention at the annual meeting Wednesday was focused on Jobs – who is on medical leave – Cook found plenty of time to tout the company’s products. And although consumer electronics companies around the world have been struggling with a paralyzing economic slowdown, Cook sounded anything but pessimistic.

from Fan Fare:

Hollywood ponders Jobs-lessness

(Writing and Reporting by Sue Zeidler)jobs

Apple Inc's Steve Jobs has commanded a leading role in Hollywood for years with his clout and influence in the digital entertainment arena, including Apple's position as a leading provider of downloads for music and video at its iTunes Web site. 

Jobs also sits on the board and is the largest individual shareholder of the Walt Disney Co., having sold his Pixar Animation Studios for stock in the venerable film and TV studio. Now, his exit from the limelight at Apple has left Hollywood abuzz.

The 53-year-old tech icon and pancreatic cancer survivor recently said he was stepping aside temporarily at Apple due to health problems "more complex" than previously thought, leaving studio execs to wonder if negotiating with Apple, famous for its tight control on pricing, could become easier. Or, has Hollywood lost a powerful visionary and advocate for change at a time when it needs to move fast in the shifting digital landscape?

There’s Apple… and there’s Microsoft

It’s a tale of two companies in the technology world on Thursday. There’s Apple, whose quarterly profit beat expectations on strong iPod and Mac computer sales. And then there’s Microsoft, whose dismal earnings sent shockwaves through financial markets.

There should be plenty of interesting questions for CEO Steve Ballmer on the company’s conference call this morning — some of which he likely wouldn’t answer if asked.

Why didn’t Microsoft give investors a warning if the results were going to look so lousy? Why release the results Thursday morning rather than when it was supposed to, later this afternoon? What’s going on with Yahoo? Will 5,000 jobs cuts — the biggest ever by Microsoft — be sufficient? And, seriously, why is Apple doing such so much better?

The worst vacation ever

It’s just like vacation — except that you don’t get paid and really don’t have any choice in the matter and will likely spend the days worrying this could be a hint of (bad) things to come.

Some staffers at Gannett Co, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, will be forced to take a week off without pay in its latest move to cut costs. Already, it has cut thousands of jobs, says this furlough will help it avoid more layoffs.

Here’s what Reuters reported:

“This means that most of our U.S. employees — including myself and all other top executives — will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter,” Dubow wrote.

Apple, Jobs and health: A Reuters roundup

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told the world Wednesday that he discovered that his health issues are more complex than he had previously thought, so he’s taking a medical leave of absence. Jobs, who earlier this month said his recent weight loss was caused by a hormonal imbalance that was relatively easy to treat, plans to be off until the end of June. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will mind the shop in the interim. Once Apple shares resumed trading after-hours, investors knocked off about 10 percent of their value.

Here’s a quick roundup of what we found online about these latest developments (And of course, here’s the Reuters story before we get to the other ones):

Silicon Alley Insider:

Tim Cook should do fine as Apple’s interim day-to-day leader. He took control of the company last time Steve went on a leave of absence to treat his pancreatic cancer. Steve says he plans to “remain involved in major strategic decisions” while he is out.

Steve Jobs: I’m well thanks, but I have a weight problem

Apple investors and Apple fans heaved a collective sigh of relief on Monday morning after CEO and founder Steve Jobs finally made an attempt to end rumors that he’s on his deathbed.

Jobs sent a letter to his followers, who will be gathering at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco in his absence, explaining his recent weight-loss has been due to a hormonal imbalance.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority. Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

Apple, give us some new toys!

Despite strong sales of Apple’s iPod Touch and Macbook computers, bloggers are clamoring for Steve Jobs and his team to introduce a range of new devices, or significant upgrades to existing models, beyond the usual Mac rumor mill.

At Silicon Alley Insider,  they think it’s time for Jobs to consider a tablet Mac. SAI says the iPod Touch could be combined with the cheap, small ‘netbook’ laptops that are selling well for Dell and Asus.

It’s time for Steve Jobs to smash them together into a killer multi-touch tablet. We’re calling ours the iPod touch HD for now, and we’re hoping we can buy it before next Christmas.

Apple’s not coming to the ball…but why?

No matter how hard the PR execs try, Apple can’t help but court controversy when it comes to the health of its leader Steve Jobs.

Ever since it was revealed he had a successful operation for pancreatic cancer, Apple fans and investors have been very skittish about any hint that Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, founder and visionary, might have to step down due to bad health. Jobs’ recent public appearances haven’t helped as he has looked unusually thin.

So news that Jobs would not be making his now annual keynote appearance at next month’s Macworld show sent shares down nearly 7 percent on Wednesday.

Steve Jobs jokes about health (again)

Steve JobsAfter joking last month about reports of his death, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is poking fun again at the endless speculation over the state of his health.

At a Tuesday event to unveil new MacBook laptop computers, Jobs stood in front of a big screen that said his blood pressure was 110/70, quipping, “And that’s all we’re going to be talking about – Steve’s health today.”

(In case anyone’s wondering, blood pressure under 120/80 is considered normal)