By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated April 29, 2014.
Apple is making news with its updated MacBook Air -- because of the price. The 11-inch version of the new model starts at $899, one of the few times an Apple laptop has been priced less than $1,000.
Phililp Schiller, senior vice president for marketing, said in a statement that, "with the MacBook Air starting at $899, there's no reason to settle for anything less than a Mac."
The 11-inch MacBook Air offers 4GB of memory, a 128GB solid state drive, and up to 9 hours of battery life. It features a modest stepup in the CPU to a 1.4GHz Core i5-4260U, with Turbo Boost speeds available for the 11-inch up to 2.7 GHz. For $1099, the flash storage is boosted to 256GB.
'What's Not to Like?'
The 13-inch Macbook, priced at $999, provides up to 12 hours of battery life, a 1.4GHz processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz, 4GB of RAM and 128GB solid state drive. For a drive of 256GB, the price is $1199. Options for customized configuration include a 1.7 GHz core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz, up to 8GB memory and up to 512GB solid state storage.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, described the updated models as "less expensive, slightly faster, with a slightly longer battery." With those specs, he asked, "What's not to like?"
But, he noted, if the laptop market overall is taken into consideration, "$899 is still a premium price point." The difference, he said, is that "Apple is providing a lot of value" for the money.
Greengart added that while it's "nice to see they're doing this price point, it's not because of a new strategy, but because they can."
Rumors of the Next Mac
Many Apple-watchers are expecting the company to come out in June with major upgrades for the Airs, including possibly the new Intel Broadwell CPUs and the high-resolution Retina display.
There are also rumors of a 12-inch, fanless model, which could be the thinnest and lightest laptop yet from the company. Other reports suggest the possibilities of a solar-powered laptop, Thunderbolt 2 high-speed connectors, or a buttonless pressure-sensitive touchpad. The new models may be targeted for release around the time of the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on June 2.
Greengart also pointed out that Apple "has carved out a large niche of people who are willing to pay more for what are arguably better PCs." Running against the trend of declining computer sales, Apple sold 4.1 million Macs in the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 200,000 units compared to the same quarter last year. Research firm IDC has reported that the company's computer sales were up 5 percent in the first quarter, while PCs in general were down 4 percent.