Apple Inc unveiled a cheaper Mac notebook on Monday, kicking off its annual developers' conference with a low-key announcement amid speculation visionary leader Steve Jobs might appear after a months-long absence from public view.

Apple's new MacBook Air notebook now starts at $1,499, a $300 price cut. The company also unveiled a new 13-inch MacBook Pro starting at $1,199.

Shares in the consumer electronics giant slid 3 percent to $140.33, but that came after a 6.5 percent climb in the week leading up to the much-anticipated event.

Suspense and speculation had mounted in the months before Apple's annual Worldwide Developers' Conference, with hopes ranging from a cameo by founder and CEO Jobs -- out till the end of June on medical leave -- to revelations of a game-changing tablet mini-PC or cheaper iPhone.

On Monday, CNBC reported that Apple planned to price new iPhones aggressively, and refresh its entire line of the popular smartphones.

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 in the maker of the iPod and iPhone have surged 85 percent since shortly after the bombshell was dropped on January 14.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and David Lawsky; Editing by Richard Chang)