SAN FRANCISCO – Apple Inc. said on Tuesday said it was dropping copy protection from songs sold on the Internet and debuted its slimmest 17-inch laptop yet, but with no dramatic products or master pitchman Steve Jobs, the company's final Macworld performance disappointed Wall Street.
Apple shares slid 0.7 percent, lagging by far the Nasdaq's 1.7 percent gain, reflecting frustration over the lack of news from the trade conference that had previously introduced the iPhone to the world.
"There were some innovative products, but no true blockbusters," said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital hedge fund in San Francisco. "People were bullish going into it, and now they're kind of taking money off the table."
Apple said its iTunes music store, which has sold 6 billion songs thus far, will offer its 10-million-song library free of digital rights management — or copy-protection — by the end of the quarter, for between 69 cents and $1.29 a song.
Songs will also be available straight to iPhones over the air, instead of through a computer.
The company decided not use Macworld to launch any major new product, as it had in past years, when it introduced such industry-changing devices as the iPhone.
In years past, the company's Macworld product launches had produced so much buzz that they managed to overshadow events at the far larger Consumer Electronics Show. The 2009 CES show kicks off this week in Las Vegas.
Tuesday's event produced few surprises. Apple announced a $2,799 17-inch laptop that is the company's lightest and slimmest ever, as well as tweaks to software for home movies and photographs.
The event culminated with singer Tony Bennett crooning "The Best is Yet to Come" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in a farewell of sorts to Apple, which will no longer attend the cultural event thronged annually by Mac-faithful.
Jobs, a fixture at past events, was nowhere in sight, despite some hopes for a cameo.
Last month, the company said its chief executive and salesman extraordinaire would not deliver the Macworld address.
That raised fresh concerns about the cancer survivor's health and signaled to many Apple-watchers that the company had no plans to launch a major product at Macworld.