MacBook Pro With Retina Display
The MacBook Pro with Retina display is shown at the Apple Store in New York's SoHo neighborhood. Dave Smith/IBT

The MacBook Pro with Retina display is getting faster and more affordable, and so is the MacBook Air. On Wednesday, Apple announced new and improved specs for its MacBook Pro with Retina display, dropping the price for two of its models, and even gave a minor price cut to the 13-inch MacBook Air as well.

The new and improved 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, released last October, now costs $1,499 for 128 GB of flash, and $1,699 for 256 GB of flash storage and a new 2.6 GHz processor – a price drop of $200 and $300, respectively.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display also features a faster 2.4 GHz quad-core processor, and the “top-of-the-line” 15-inch laptop features an even beefier 2.7 GHz i7 chip with 16 GB of memory. The price of these particular Apple notebooks has not changed.

However, Apple has dropped the price of its highest-end 13-inch MacBook Air, which now costs $1,399 for 256 GB of storage – a savings of $100.

“The MacBook Pro with Retina display features the world’s highest resolution notebook display,” Apple said in its press release. “Whether you’re reading emails, writing text, editing home movies in HD or retouching professional photography, everything appears vibrant, detailed and sharp, delivering an unrivaled viewing experience. The MacBook Pro with Retina display features flash storage that is up to four times faster than traditional notebook hard drives, and delivers improved reliability, instant-on responsiveness and up to 30 days of standby time.”

The MacBook Pro with Retina display certainly sucks up a lot of battery life, so it’s possible Apple wanted to introduce faster processors to help power the brilliant screen. However, it’s the timing of this announcement that’s most interesting.

Apple typically updates its Macs with new specs and price points all at once – in the past, Apple has chosen to beef up its Mac line at the annual WWDC, which takes place in San Francisco each June. Last year, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air all got updated with new specs, and Apple also introduced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display; roughly eight months later, Apple’s improved the processors.

Apple has a lot of cash, as everyone knows, so it’s possible Apple is using some of that capital to stay ahead of the curve, considering the increased level of competition it's facing across the board, from tablets to smartphones to notebooks. Just in time for last week’s release date of the Surface Pro, Apple preempted the launch by releasing a new iPad with the same amount of storage as Microsoft’s new tablet-laptop hybrid, but at a cheaper price.

Apple sold just 4.1 million Macs in its most recent earnings quarter that ended Dec. 29, compared to 5.2 million in the year-ago quarter. It’s likely Apple noticed this slump and made a few tweaks to make the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines a bit more appealing to consumers – and if anyone can afford to bump up specs and knock down prices, it’s Apple.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment, and we’ll update this story as soon as we learn more.