Digitimes reports that Apple is planning to launch a cheaper MacBook Air in the third quarter of this year, dropping the entry-level price to $799 from the current $999. The move is reportedly being made to take on Intel’s “Ultrabook” initiative that is pushing low-cost, ultra-thin notebook PCs.
Although Acer has recently reduced its ultrabook shipment target, Intel continues to aggressively push ultrabooks and is aiming to have the devices priced at US$699 in the second half of the year. However, if Intel is unable to bring down ASPs to its goal, the price gap between ultrabooks and the US$799 MacBook Air may further postpone the time ultrabooks become standardized, the sources noted.
Ultrabook manufacturers have so far struggled to match or beat Apple’s MacBook Air pricing, leading to weak shipments. But Intel remains committed to the initiative, and is working with manufacturers to continue to bring prices down.
It is unclear just how Apple would achieve a $200 price cut on the MacBook Air, given the company’s focus on maintaining high profit margins. Certainly pricing on the solid-state drives used in the MacBook Air will continue to fall, but Apple likely has only limited flexibility to bring down pricing. And given the strong performance of the MacBook Air as Ultrabooks continue to struggle, it is not immediately obvious whether Apple would even see a need to lower pricing on its models.
Digitimes has a spotty track record with regard to Apple rumors, although it has on occasion offered accurate insight based on sources in Apple’s supply chain. The publication’s recent claims regarding Apple’s notebook plans including a report ofproduction being underway on slimmer 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, as well as a suggestion that Apple is considering a 14-inch MacBook Air for Asian markets.