Amid the hurly-burly of Apple's sweeping announcements Monday, the company also quietly launched its annual back-to-school promotion, offering $100 gift cards to customers who buy a qualifying Mac and $50 to those who purchase a third-generation iPad.
As it did last year, Apple will honor those iTunes gift cards at the company's digital content markets, including the Mac App Store, iOS App Store, iBookstore and iTunes store, where customers can purchase software, apps, textbooks and music.
The iPad is new to the program, which previously had only applied to Mac notebooks and desktops.
This year's promotion, which started Monday and runs through Sept. 21, gives current college students and incoming freshmen, parents buying for a college student, and teachers and staff members of all grade levels -- including K-12 -- the $100 gift card when they buy a new iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. Refurbished Macs and the Mac Mini do not qualify.
Apple will award a $50 gift card to those who purchase one of the new iPads, the third-generation tablet the company launched last March. iPad 2s, which Apple still sells at a $100 discount, are ineligible.
This is the second year that Apple has handed out iTunes gift cards and maxed the amount of the offer at $100: For several years ending in 2010, Apple gave rebates of two or three times as much toward the purchase of an iPod Touch.
Apple was also beat to the back-to-school punch by Microsoft for the second consecutive year.
The Redmond, Wash., developer of Windows launched its campaign almost a month ago, repeating 2011's free Xbox 360 game console offer to U.S. students who buy a new Windows 7 PC. The deal, worth $199 -- the list price of the video game system -- is twice Apple's, and kicks in at much lower prices: To qualify, customers must buy a Windows PC that costs $699 or more.
Apple's least-expensive notebook is the $999 MacBook Air -- the only model of four in the line that didn't get a $100 price cut yesterday -- while the cheapest desktop is the $1,199 21.5-in. iMac.
Qualifying iPad prices start at $499.
The usual student and educator discounts for Mac purchases also apply during the promotion. They range from $50 on MacBook Airs and $100-$200 on MacBook Pros to $50-$100 on iMacs and $200-$300 on Mac Pro systems. Apple does not discount its iPads to students or teachers.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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