Musings on Apple's Revamp of the Notebook Line

by , 12:35 PM EDT, July 29th, 2008

The "future product transition" that Apple's Peter Oppenheimer referred to recently has led observers to put their money on a revamp of Apple's notebook line, according to BusinessWeek on on Tuesday. In turn, just how the decrease in expected gross margin will translate into new features is still a subject for ongoing speculation.

There are only two ways to cut gross margins, according to BW's Apple observer, Arik Hesseldahl. Cut price or increase the cost of the goods that go into the product.

Apple can afford to do this, Mr. Heseldahl noted, because of the momentum of Mac sales. Apple could boost its market share, especially in the crucial back-to-school season, at the expense of Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

In addition, possibly more likely, Apple could add some special feature that would give them a competitive advantage. That naturally leads to thinking about touch screen, multi-touch and gesture mania on the iPhone.

Just how that would play out is uncertain. iSuppli analyst Jennifer Callgrove thinks that because a touch screen notebook would have a very expensive display, Apple would come out of the gate with a subnotebook, perhaps a 9 to 10 inch screen.

TMO notes that rumors from other sites have suggested a full size screen but a glass trackpad with the multi-touch features of an iPhone.

"Surely Apple will find willing buyers for a multitouch-capable mini-Mac with a full keyboard. The success of the MacBook Air suggests there's a new willingness at Apple's Cupertino (Calif.) headquarters to fundamentally rethink what a Mac notebook can be," Mr. Hesseldahl noted.

A subnotebook with a touch screen might cannibalize the MacBook Air sales, so it's likely that Apple would, in Mr. Hesseldahl's opinion, keep the price point and size well below the MBA.

Just what direction Apple will go, no one outside of Apple knows. What's likely is that the new technologies of the iPhone and the synergy between OS X Leopard and OS X iPhone has Apple thinking about what the next generation notebook computer should be like. If history repeats itself, Apple will catch the entire industry off guard once again.