Apple and its brick-and-mortar retail partner Best Buy are known for holding the list price line, although Amazon.com, another Apple selling partner, typically quotes Apple hardware at slightly under full price.
Best Buy priced the older white-case MacBook, which Apple retained when it launched the new unibody models last month, for $899. That's $100 off list and $50 under what Apple discounts the system to students and educators.
Prices for the MacBook and MacBook Pro have also been cut, with the former selling for $1,199 and $1,449, $100 and $150 off list, respectively, while the latter have been tagged at $1,899 and $2,399, $100 off their suggested prices.
Meanwhile, the ultra-light MacBook Air has been priced at $1,699 and $2,349, $100 under list.
In comparison, Apple's online store listed all MacBooks at full suggested list price Monday, while Amazon.com had the lowest-priced MacBook going for $996.98 and the least-expensive unibody MacBook Pro at $1,964.97.
Stephen Baker, an analyst with market research firm NPD Group who tracks U.S. computer retail sales, called the move by Best Buy "rare," but added that the chain "has to maintain [sales] velocity somehow" in crummy economic conditions. "It looks like it's trying to gear up for the holidays," Baker said, referring to the sale on Apple hardware.
"It's kind of hard to say at the moment if this means Apple's having trouble selling Macs," he said. "The numbers we have from October showed MacBook sales were pretty strong, but iMac volumes were weak."
Baker speculated that Best Buy is trying to compete with Apple's own retail chain, which never publicly discounts prices. "People are pretty much pre-sold when they walk into an Apple store," he said.
Best Buy also put Apple's iMac desktops on sale, with models selling for $1,099 to $1,649, $100 to $150 off full price.
Some analysts have speculated that while Apple will be affected by the plummeting economy, particularly the sharp decline in planned consumer spending, it should weather the storm better than most rivals.
"But given the economy, everything is up for grabs," Baker said.