MacBook vs MacBook Air Preference Up in the Air

Apple introduced the new MacBook Air lineup during a special media event on Wednesday, and UBS analyst Maynard Um is wondering if the ultra-light laptop’s price point may compete with the unibody MacBook.

“The MacBook Air is identically attractively priced at $999 as the MacBook, though lowerspec’d versus its MacBook and MacBook Pro brethren,” Mr. Um said. “With a more portableform factor, it will remain to be seen whether the new MBA will be preferred over the higher powered MacBook line (with a built in drive), which may be relevant as like for like, new MacBook Airs may have lower gross margins given price drops.”

The new MacBook Air is available in 11.6- and 13.3-inch display configurations. It sheds an internal hard drive in favor of flash RAM, and offers instant-on like the iPad. Unlike netbooks, the MacBook Air ships with a full-size keyboard and multi-touch capable trackpad.

Pricing for the 11.6-inch model with 2 GB RAM and 64 GB storage comes in at US$999, just like the 13-inch MacBook. In comparison, the MacBook includes features the MacBook Air doesn’t, such as a built-in optical drive and FireWire ports.

Mr. Um may be questioning the impact the MacBook Air will have on other Mac laptop sales, but he isn’t questioning the company’s overall lineup. “Apple is heading into the holidays with a refreshed portfolio across all its products and has one of the strongest and most visible 2011 product releases including CDMA iPhone (Jan/Feb), new iPads (Mar/Apr), iPhone5 (Jun),” he said.

Mr. Um is maintaining his “Buy” rating and $365 target price for Apple’s stock. Apple is currently trading at $313.10, up 2.57 (0.83%).