In March, I wrote a column for Macworld called “MacBook Air: Why Does not It Die?”. I received many angry comments from people who apparently read the title rather than the text and charged me as the executor of their beloved laptop.
I’m as far from it as I could be. I loved it and used the MacBook Air from the time the first one was released ten years ago. My point of view at the time was that Apple tried to kill the MacBook Air a few years ago – since the 12-inch MacBook was first released – but it never managed to finish the job.
A number of features that Apple sees as an old technology – MagSafe charging, USB-A ports, SD card reader, “butterfly” keyboard mechanism and of course the lack of a Retina monitor – do not seem to have bothered computer lovers. MacBook Air.
Instead, I keep hearing that the MacBook Air is one of Apple’s best-selling computers. Of course, the price of $ 999 is a huge reason, and it’s a value that the $ 1,299 MacBook Pro and the $ 1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar) failed to address.
Anyway, Bloomberg reported last week that Apple is preparing a low-cost replacement for the MacBook Air, according to reports obtained by the publication.
Then that’s it? Is swan music for the MacBook Air? And if so, what will replace it?
What we know and what we do not know
Here’s what Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu have reported: Apple will launch a low-cost laptop that will be “MacBook Air-like,” but with “thinner frames” around a 13-inch Retina display.
Gurman’s sources are generally solid, so I’m inclined to believe that report. And while the story refers to the product as “the new MacBook Air” at one point, I’m not sure if this is intentional – and it seems unlikely to me that Apple keep the old name.
Let’s assume this as a given: Apple will present a 13-inch “low-cost” Retina laptop (starting at $ 999). We still have many details to complete, so let’s try. But before we start, it may be worth dealing with the elephant in the room.
There is a laptop in the Apple product line that does not make sense and does not make much sense in the last two years of existence. That’s the $ 1,299 and 13-inch MacBook Pro (no touch bar). Why would Apple choose to simultaneously launch two 13-inch laptops with the same name, but with very different feature sets?
My best guess is that the MacBook Escape, as it is sometimes called – because it has a physical Esc key and the lack of the Touch Bar – was originally a next generation MacBook Air version. It weighs three pounds, basically the same as Air. Its Intel processor is of the same class as the MacBook Air. The problem is that it is very expensive – and keep in mind that when it was released, it cost $ 1,499, 50% more than the MacBook Air.
This quarter, Apple updated the models of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, but the without the Touch Bar escaped without any change. Curious, is not it? And so here’s my theory: I believe he’s got his days counted and will be replaced with a new 13-inch Retina laptop that’s more affordable … what Bloomberg reported is on the way next quarter.
How does a $ 1,499 laptop go to $ 1,299 and ultimately to $ 999? In part, it is likely that Apple has managed to increase its profit margin on the product after a few years. It is also possible that Apple has considered several new ways to make the product cheaper, although many of the sign features – RAM, storage space – are already started at lower levels on the Escape than the 12-inch MacBook.
If there is economy, it may be at the component level. Is there a cheaper 13.3-inch Retina screen that may not be as bright and does not have the wide range of Escape colors? I do not know.
Anyway, if the MacBook Escape is the basis of Apple’s new $ 999 laptop, I imagine it shares Escape’s specifications, which means two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports.
A second chance to replace Air
It is also possible that the Escape design is too expensive and that this new laptop is built from scratch to reach a price of $ 999.
I’m sure MacBook Air users are hoping for a new design that is simply Air with some modern upgrades. I do not think it’s a likely move by Apple. The Air’s design, with its large silver frames, is a relic of a couple of generations of design behind. If Apple is going to make a new laptop, it will be based on the current generation of designs or this will indicate where Apple is going next.
That’s why I would expect MagSafe to disappear unless Apple reinvented it to future generations of laptops. (I think not). I do not really expect USB-A to return, though it would be nice if Apple offered USB-A and USB-C ports so that adapters and dongles were not a necessary addition to the purchase of that laptop.
Then there is the keyboard question. It’s all about taste – some people love the new laptop keyboards, some do not. I would be surprised if a new laptop did not just use the same keyboards as all other Mac laptops in the world, unless Apple is ready to show us a brand new version of the keyboard – one that can get into other laptops in the future.
Every rumor of a new laptop is an opportunity for you to expect the company to have made a change. But it’s more realistic that Apple continue more or less in the same direction, and that’s why I think the most likely product we’ll see will have the butterfly keyboard, two USB-C ports and look more or less like the MacBook. Cheaper. Boring, but consistent.
It’s the name?
Killing the MacBook Escape simplifies the MacBook Pro line. At the same time, introducing a laptop to the consumer threatens the start of more confusing terminology. That’s why I think the most likely approach is for Apple to call this new laptop from simply the 13-inch MacBook. Then Apple will offer two MacBook sizes – the ultra-light 12-inch model and the heavier yet more powerful 13-inch – next to their two MacBook Pro sizes.
Yes, it’s a bit counterintuitive for Apple’s cheaper laptop not to be the smallest of them, but this has happened before – most notably in the early days of the MacBook Air era. And people who want the MacBook still want it, because it It is small, thin, light and totally adorable.
So, yeah, I think it’s a curtain for the MacBook Air. But if we’re lucky, your replacement will be a 13-inch screen, weighing three pounds and powered by the same class of Intel processor (but the current generation of chips !). A new segment of the market will delay the charger and cables, sounds familiar to those who have purchased a new MacBook Pro in the last two years.
I will regret the death of the MacBook Air, but if the new 13-inch laptop can provide a Retina monitor and a dual-core i5 processor for $ 999, it will be a suitable successor.