A new, low-cost, non-Retina MacBook of some kind has been envisioned and dreamed about by the community. Whatever Apple’s plans are, the new 2018 MacBook Air isn’t it. And that’s okay.
The reason it’s okay is because 1) Apple understands its MacBook Air customers very well, 2) Apple likes to compete with itself, and 3) We may yet see a lower cost Apple notebook for education.
Playing Leapfrog with MacBook Air
In 2015, Apple launched the new 12-inch MacBook. In colors. With a single USB-C port. The new Butterfly keyboard. And a 12-inch Retina display. Except for the slightly-too-small display, it seemed primed to put the 2014 MacBook Air out to pasture. And without serious upgrades over the past few years, it certainly seemed as if the MBA would be allowed to slowly, gracefully die off.
Either that or price-reduced and sold into the education market. The problem there is that no amount of economies of scale are going to allow the legacy MBA (or even 12-inch MacBook) to compete with US$300 PC notebooks and Chromebooks. So scratch that.
Then a funny thing happened.
Apple came to realize, I surmise, that the MacBook Air has been a highly favored Mac. Maybe not with students. But with authors, creators, teachers, and other mobile professionals. Tim Cook even used the word, as I recall, “beloved” during the Oct 30 New York event. And so rather than scale down for education, Apple decided to beef up the MBA in the ways, according to Cook, that matter most to the many loyal users.
This fits in with Apple’s now evident pattern of beefing up its Macs, performance and security, and raising prices to match.
Whatever Mac Apple has planned for the education market, we haven’t seen it yet. Except for iPads. Hanging its hat on iPads alone in education would be a mistake, but that’s also a topic for another day. What’s clear is that Apple will sell a boatload of the new MacBook Airs.
And the MacBook?
And what about the Macbook? It almost seems as if Apple has two competing teams, leapfrogging each other. Where will the MacBook go from here? Will it again leapfrog and surpass the MBA? Or will it, now an aging technology, be retired as a failed experiment?
One thing is clear. Apple is effectively competing with itself here. The customers benefit greatly—even as we pundits have terrible time seeing the big notebook picture as it evolves, year by year.