Apple's gorgeous, high-end consumer gadgets have developed a rabid following, and if recent earnings are any indication, the company's reluctance to offer consumers affordably priced options has paid off handsomely. So counterintuitively, a new report from technology news site Digitimes claims that the company is on the verge of releasing a $799 MacBook Air, citing anonymous sources in Apple's "upstream supply chain." That's $200 cheaper than the company's current entry-level portable, and could effectively eliminate the cost advantage of "ultrabooks" — lighter, thinner laptops made by rivals like ASUS, Intel, and Sony. Would ultrabooks stand a chance if the MacBook Air slashed its price?
This would be a huge blow to ultrabooks: Ultrabook sales are already underwhelming, says Matt Peckham at TIME, partly because of the proliferation of tablets like the iPad. Plus, smart consumers may be waiting for the fall release of Windows 8 before jumping aboard the ultrabook bandwagon. But if Apple gets the jump and releases a $799 MacBook Air with a battery-saving Ivy Bridge processor? "All bets are off."
"Would a $799 MacBook Air threaten next-gen Ultrabook sales?"
But the rumor is probably bogus: "The Macbook Air has been selling just fine" without a big discount, and currently accounts for 25 percent of Apple's total notebook sales, says Max Eddy at Geekosystem. Why would the company stoop down to the competition's level? "Apple does not bow to trends — it makes them." Remember: Apple rolled out the iPod when the industry was just starting to embrace CD burners, and unveiled the touchscreen iPhone while BlackBerry was still king. A competitively priced MacBook Air seems unlikely.
"It’s really unlikely that Apple will release a $799 MacBook Air"
Actually, it sounds quite plausible: Remember when Apple unveiled the iPhone 3GS? asks Erica Ogg at GigaOm. The company still offered the older iPhone 3G at a discounted price of $99 (as opposed to $199). Apple did the same with the most recent iPad. So if Tim Cook and Co. do decide to sell a MacBook Air at $799, count on it being last year's model with a nice discount.
"Apple making a $799 Air in fear of ultrabooks? Nope."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- Will Kobani be ISIS's Waterloo?
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How to make corn dogs
Subscribe to the Week