updated 2/14/2006 3:25:25 PM ET 2006-02-14T20:25:25

Apple Computer Inc. said Tuesday it will begin shipping this week the new MacBook Pro, the company's first laptop computer to feature an Intel Corp. microprocessor.

Apple, which is in the midst of a historic shift to Intel chips, last month introduced its first Intel-based desktop computer, the iMac G5, about six months ahead of schedule.

Analysts expect the new Intel-based Macintosh products to boost Apple's perennially small share in the U.S. PC market, which increased slightly last year to more than 4 percent due in part to the popularity of Apple's iPod players.

Using Intel's Core Duo processors aligns Apple with the same kind of chips that rival makers of Windows-based computers use. It also has allowed Apple to tap into the vast marketing power of Intel, the world's largest semiconductor company.

The chips themselves feature the latest technologies. Apple says the MacBook Pro delivers up to four times the performance of its former flagship laptop, the PowerBook G4, which uses PowerPC chips from IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc.

Instead of using the previously announced 1.83 gigahertz Core Duo processor, Apple said the new high-end MacBook will feature a 2.0 Ghz chip, but will remain priced at $2,499 (euro2,100). The lower-end $1,999 (euro1,680) model will have a 1.83 Ghz chip, instead of the previously announced 1.67 Ghz chip.

Customers may also upgrade to a 2.16 Ghz version.

Some may have to wait before getting one in hand. Apple has said it will need some time to catch up with a backlog of orders.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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