Apple Inc cut the price of its entry-level iPhone to $99 on Monday, in a nod sure to please recession-weary consumers, but ailing leader Steve Jobs did not put in a much speculated-about appearance after a months-long absence from public view.
Analysts said the discount is sure to galvanize sales of the device.
But shares in Apple slid 0.6 percent to $143.85 -- after a 6.5 percent climb in the week leading up to the highly anticipated event -- as Jobs failed to show and investors debated the merits of the sharp iPhone price cut.
Apple also unveiled its next-generation iPhone 3GS -- the S stands for speed -- which will be twice as fast, take videos and go on sale in countries including the United States and Germany from June 19 for $199 to $299.
Apple is selling the 3G at a breakthrough price of $99, marketing chief Phil Schiller told the crowd. That starts today.
Morgan Stanley estimates that an entry-level, $99 phone would double existing sales.
Apple kept its legions of fans enthused on Monday with a spate of other product announcements: new and cheaper notebooks with revamped software, and new applications and games for the iPhone.
But the most talked-about news -- that Chief Executive and founder Jobs might make a cameo -- failed to transpire.
Suspense and speculation had mounted in the months before Apple's annual Worldwide Developers' Conference, with hopes ranging from a cameo by Jobs -- out till the end of June on medical leave -- to revelations of a game-changing tablet mini-PC or cheaper iPhone.
Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, has not appeared despite speculation he would, after springing his leave of absence on stunned markets in January by saying his health problems were more complex than previously thought.
Despite a slowing product line, worsening consumer spending and an uncertain succession plan, investors have quickly got comfortable with the idea of a Job-less Apple. Shares of the maker of the iPod and iPhone have surged 85 percent since shortly after the bombshell was dropped on January 14.
A JAZZED-UP PHONE
Apple's stock is historically volatile during the company's June developer conference. It dropped about 7 percent over the course of the conference in 2008 and about 4 percent in 2007.
Much of Monday's event was taken up with new features for Apple's best-selling gadget. Executives announced that new iPhones will support TomTom satellite navigation devices and support multiplayer games such as Asphalt 5.
The consumer electronics giant showed off a new 15-inch notebook with improved battery life, a $300-cheaper Mac Air -- its thinnest laptop -- and, as expected, its highly previewed Snow Leopard Mac operating system software.
Apple's new MacBook Air notebook now starts at $1,499. The company also unveiled a new 13-inch MacBook Pro starting at $1,199, and a 15-inch laptop with longer battery life, addressing a perennial consumer concern.
But some of the hundreds of software developers, analysts, reporters and industry insiders that gathered in downtown San Francisco had hoped to catch a glimpse of Jobs, who has stayed out of public view amid persistent speculation over his health.
Executives declined to comment on his whereabouts on Monday. In January, Jobs said he would be out of commission till the end of June. Apple executives have since reassured investors that Jobs, credited with building the company into the tech powerhouse of today, was still involved in strategic decisions.
Jobs, a college dropout, co-founded Apple in 1976 with his friend Steve Wozniak in a Silicon Valley garage. After a falling-out with the board, he left the company in 1985.
Apple floundered, setting the scene for his return in 1997. The company has flourished under Jobs 2.0, rolling out the concept of a computer as a 'digital hub' along with the now-ubiquitous iPod and iPhone.
(Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin; Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)