There has been speculation of late of Apple considering the launch of a “low cost” MacBook of some kind, and a leaker today suggests that it could take the form of a 12-inch MacBook – as well a 13-inch one specifically geared to the education market.
There have been similar suggestions from other sources, though all have been vague, and all of the sources have rather variable records …
Low-cost MacBook reports
Digitimes kicked things off last month, with what sounded like a highly sketchy report that Apple was planning a new MacBook priced below the MacBook Air, and that the company was seeking to compete with Chromebooks in the education sector.
Sources said Apple will likely launch a new product line for its low-cost MacBooks to differentiate it from the existing MacBook Air and Pro lines. The outer appearance will still use a metal casing but made of different materials. The unit price of the mechanical components will be lower, allowing for a more affordable price aimed at the education market, similar to the positioning of Chromebooks.
We expressed skepticism at the time, on a number of grounds:
- Typical Chromebook pricing is way below a level to interest Apple
- Apple’s recent education efforts have focused on the iPad
- The cannibalization risk would be huge – from both the MacBook Air and iPad
I noted that there are premium Chromebooks at prices much closer to that of the MacBook Air, so maybe Apple might go up against those, but it’s certainly not going to make an ultra-cheap MacBook.
Ming-Chi Kuo this week added some support to the idea of a lower-cost MacBook, but it was even vaguer.
Apple may also consider (but hasn’t decided yet) introducing a more affordable MacBook model to boost shipments, with a target of 8-10+ million units per year.
12-inch MacBook, and 13-inch education model
The latest report is from Korean blogger yeux1122, who gets a little more specific, in claiming that Apple has two products in development.
In my supply chain source March 18 July 23 September 23 I have consistently mentioned the contents of the low-cost model.
What is currently under development: 12 inch base and educational 13-inch is being captured and has a higher launch on the real market than ever.
(Currently, iPad and MacBook sales are showing the worst numbers in recent years)
All three sources have very mixed track records.
Digitimes has always been very hit-and-miss, and more miss than hit.
Kuo was once the most reliable Apple analyst around, with rock-solid supply chain sources, but now posts a great deal of mere speculation. I suspect his change of employment means that he no longer gets to spend much time on the ground in China talking with Apple suppliers.
While yeux1122 talks about “supply chain sources,” it’s doubtful that they have any: almost everything posted from the account is based on what they’ve read on Weibo and other Chinese social media. The most recent claim we’ve had the opportunity to check out was that the iPhone 15 Pro models would start at 256GB instead of 128GB (true) and max out at 2TB instead of 1TB (false).
Is Apple considering a lower-cost MacBook? Sure: the company considers all sorts of things, all the time, and some of it gets as far as prototypes. I have no problem believing that Apple has some MacBook prototypes knocking around its labs, made from cheaper materials, just to see what is possible – though I’d expect something around the $800 to $900 range as the absolute lowest the company would go.
But with none of the three sources to date having great track records, this is all highly speculative.
On a personal note, I always thought the 12-inch MacBook was super-cute, and I desperately tried to come up with a justification to buy one, without success. Maybe I’d have more luck with a cheaper model, so I’d love for the report to be true – but wishing won’t make it so.
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