Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to be unveiling new MacBooks soon — possibly by the end of this month. But if the rumor mill can be believed, Apple won’t just be announcing fancy new MacBook Pros. It also will announce the death of the 11-inch MacBook Air.
Japanese blog Macotakara published a report yesterday claiming the 11-inch MacBook Air will be officially discontinued when AAPL announces its long-awaited new MacBook Pros.
The 13-inch model would remain in the lineup.
MacBook Air Led a Laptop Revolution
When Apple released the MacBook Air, it helped to kickstart a revolution in ultra-portable laptop design.
Windows PC manufacturers were caught off guard, but within a few years, the MacBook Air influence on the industry was obvious. The wedge-shape gained in popularity, as did the solid aluminum body style and chiclet keyboard. Even cheaper laptops and Chromebooks copied the MacBook Air look with the help of silver paint over plastic.
Apple’s notebook also helped pave the way toward innovations that would become standard configuration on premium, ultra-thin laptops, including SSDs, non-replaceable batteries, RAM soldered to the motherboard and the ditching of optical drives.
It’s not an exaggeration to say the MacBook Air is an iconic computer. In a testament to the svelte laptop’s significance to the PC industry — even years after it was first released — Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) ran commercials directly pitting its Surface Pro 4 tablet against the MacBook Air.
For many years, the 11-inch MacBook Air was the poster child for a tiny laptop that could actually be useful. AAPL doesn’t break out sales numbers by model, but with its low cost, easy-to-carry size and all-day battery life, the 11-inch MacBook Air was popular with students and likely was a top seller.
No 11-inch MacBook Air Leaves a Hole in Apple Lineup
If Macotakara is correct and Apple axes the 11-inch MacBook Air, that leaves two holes in its lineup.
Yes, the little laptop has been pulling double duty.
Ever since AAPL ditched the plastic-bodied MacBooks in 2011, the 11-inch MacBook Air has been the cheapest Apple laptop, with a starting price of $899. It also has continued to fill the role of the small, light and versatile option.
The new MacBook could be a candidate as a replacement. It’s definitely small enough and even lighter. But it’s currently much more expensive at $1,299. And when it comes to versatility, with its single USB-C port, the MacBook is a dud.
The more likely option is that the 13-inch MacBook Air — which supposedly remains in the lineup — becomes the new entry-level AAPL laptop. The company could probably even find a way to cut its $999 price a bit to bring it down to the level of the 11-inch model. But it’s bigger and heavier.
So discontinuing the 11-inch MacBook Air would leave AAPL customers to choose between the two options, depending on which they valued more: portability, or cost and versatility. It’s not a perfect solution, although the company may also try to steer customers toward the iPad Pro with Smart Case as another alternative.
Macotakara isn’t always right with its predictions. However, it appears to have a close relationship with some of AAPL’s Chinese suppliers, and the tips it receives have led to a better track record than most rumor sites.
Speaking of rumors, we should find out if Macotakara is right or wrong, along with Apple’s laptop strategy, sometime around the end of this month.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.