“After nailing its third-quarter earnings last night, Apple left investors with a funny taste: The company issued a surprisingly weak outlook for its fourth-quarter revenues and gross margin, and said margins would be even thinner next fiscal year,” Dan Frommer writes for SIlicon Alley Insider. “It’s hard to imagine that people are simply going to stop buying Macs and iPods. So what is Apple hinting at? New products, no doubt. But also, we think, slashing prices to rapidly grow market share.”

“Unless Apple is building a spaceship, it’s hard to see how a few new products alone would decimate Apple’s margins to rates the company hasn’t seen since 2006. And increased spending on new products wouldn’t explain the slower projected revenue growth,” Frommer writes. “More likely: Apple is also going to slash prices to accelerate the rate it’s stealing market share from rivals. Oppenheimer even hinted at it:”

We’re delivering state-of-the-art products at price points that our competitors can’t match, which has resulted in market share gains in each of our products. We plan to continue this strategy and to deliver great value to our customers while making a reasonable margin but not a margin so high as to leave an umbrella for our competitors.

Frommer writes, “This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but now it seems like a great time to make a real run against Windows-running rivals like Dell and HP . Microsoft’s Vista has a tiny fan club, PC manufacturers continue to churn out uninspiring machines, and as more software moves to the Web, companies (and individuals) have fewer reasons not to buy a Mac.”

“Apple managed to steal 2.1% of the U.S. PC market in the last year with its current prices, ending up with 8.5% of the U.S. market at the end of June, according to Gartner,” Frommer writes. “Imagine what it’d be able to do after knocking a few hundred bucks off its price tags.”

Full article, including t$400 Mac minis and $600 all-purpose Mac workstations, here.