Ready to rumble: Apple’s MacBook Air upgrade looms

“In relationships they say you can divide people into one of three roles: leader, follower and co-pilot,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld. “When it comes to the ultra-notebook market, there’s only one clear Master in the global supply chain, Apple [AAPL], and it’s preparing to boldly go further with its next-generation MacBook Air.”

“Sure, CES this year was populated with devices powered by Intel’s own processor platforms which aim to take a bite at the lightweight portable market Apple invented,” Evans writes. “Samsung has even held the banner of “world’s thinnest ultra-notebook” for a week or so. It will lose that advantage pretty soon, with Apple expected to introduce new configurations of the MacBook Air when Intel introduces new Ivy Bridge versions of the processors used inside.”

Evans writes, “This means all those D.O.A. competing machines are already heading for the obsolete, bargain basement and discount stores… These days Apple offers premium products at prices competitors (who don’t have its advantages of growing sales) just cannot match. Intel knows this and will be subsidizing those ultrabooks with a $300 million pot — effectively giving money away. When did Apple ever have to do this? Never.”

Read more in the full article here.

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30 Comments

  1. I wonder why Intel would give away $300 million.

    First, they may see that these “ultraportables” are simply the smallest mobile form factors that there chips can compete in. If these things intrigue enough buyers, they will hold off on the ARM-only tablet market purchases.

    The other is that they know Apple is going to its own A-series processors in future laptops, so one of their best customers is about to fly the coop on the vast majority of its sales.

    Go back in time 10 years and tell someone that Apple would be many times larger than Dell, bigger than both Google and Microsoft and would be so threatening to Intel as to force them to give away a third of a billion dollars and imagine the laughter from tech folks it would induce.

    My how things have changed.

    1. I bought my wife an iPad (1st gen) for Christmas in 2010 and an iMac this past Christmas (2011).

      I told here i was gonna get her a MBA for work and she told me not to bother; that between the iMac, iPad and her iPhone, that was all she needed. *shrug*

      All of her colleagues are teachers, and the IT guy for the 3 schools she works at is a Mac Advocate (*very* pro-Mac; as in, wants to replace all the school’s Windows units). Most of the teachers that I know have personally-owned Macs (and iPhones) and take them to work and / or use them at home.

      Based on this anecdotal evidence alone, I believe that the tide has turned for the Windows hegemony. It just hasn’t come back into shore yet. It’s the ‘breath before the plunge’.

      Just like a Tsunami, the tide is drawn away from the beach before a 50-60 ft wave comes slamming in to destroy all the hapless victims that didn’t realize what was happening (a la: RIMM).

      Intel is doing this because it sees the drawdown in Windows PC consumption and they’re scared crap-less. They don’t know what to do, so they’re trying to prop-up PC manufacturers before the wave hits.

      I just don’t think their ‘partners’ are going to be able to get off the beach quickly enough.

        1. Not quite. Apple recognized the stress at the fault line and released it. The great energy travels as a small ripple to those who see only a small area of the surface, who then laugh it off. The tsunami destroys those who did not, or could not, prepare by going to sea or much higher ground. (I send my sympathy out to those who lost loved ones to literal tsunamis.)

      1. ever since I got my first iPad.. My MBP just doesn’t get the love anymore.

        I use it, but not very much.
        It’s just too big…

        I want a new MBA with te backlit keys like my MBP, but I’m afraid I just won’t use it much.

      2. The school across the street our granddaughter went to has been shifting to Macs. One of her teachers is maintaining it and she was MCSE trained! Her attitude was prior working with Windows machines “Don’t need the headache thank you!” The tide is really changing when the TCO costs are much better with Macs despite Macs costing a bit more initially.

  2. Some of the companies that failed to make an impact with tablets will be hoping to make some money on ultrabooks instead. If their particular model tanks, or even if it is OK, but has the misfortune to be released when a rival ultrabook is sold off at fire sales prices, then that manufacturer may be looking at two significant loss-making products in just twelve months.

    How many companies can afford to have two loss making products and no profit making products during the sort of economic conditions that we now find ourselves in ?

    1. I once watched 5 dogs walking around and around in a circle sniffing the ass in front of them. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

      Perhaps the lead sled dog, with the good view, is the only one not enjoying itself.

  3. If I were Apple i would be pi$$ed. I would demand the same discount Intel is subsizding with the other companies. Who in the heck needs a supplier actively trying to compete against you? Huh????!!!!

      1. Most Apple resellers also sell other, lower priced brands. Many resellers steer customers to the cheaper products.

        Many sell Apple products bundled with half priced peripherals or accessories, in effect, undercutting Apple Store prices.

        Now you know how Apple feels about many of their resellers.

        1. I’m talking about Apple resellers not mixed shops. We know very well how Apple feels about us. They’ve been stealing our customers for years. And, fyi, they favor the know nothing, big chain box pushers who don’t give a rats arse for their customers, because they can bulk dump stock on them. Apple is the ultimate greed machine.

    1. Intel is being pretty silly if it were offering to subsidise those customers who produce rivals to Apple’s Macbook airs.

      I would guess that either Apple is already getting a comparable discount for their Intel purchases, or else, Apple will get revenge, making Intel less relevant, by becoming more allied to ARM processors, where Apple will have a great deal more influence.

      I’m somewhat puzzled by this whole story. We know that there is a ready market for the Macbook air, but is there a market for ultrabooks ? Dell failed rather spectacularly when they released one and I’m not at all convinced that those accustomed to buying netbooks for peanuts will be prepared to pay what an ultrabook needs to cost.

      This whole story might mirror the iPad/tablet situation. There is a huge market for iPads, but no money to be made from making other tablets.

      1. A Dell with a Windows OS, sturdily made, with a high res screen, the latest, low power consuming CPU, no optical disc, solid state and disc drive, with only fair battery life, at a price about 25% higher than a thinner, sexier MBA failed?

        WTF? How the hell did that happen?

  4. Intel sees Apple building a huge customer base for MacBook Air. Right now, every MacBook Air sale means an Intel CPU is sold. However, Intel sees a day when Apple starts using its own “A-something” for MacBook Air. That is a very large risk.

    Therefore, Intel must “encourage” (bribe) Apple’s competition into creating similar products. The problem is Windows. No matter how good or distinctive the hardware, it runs Windows.

  5. as many have mentioned, the fear of apple switching to A- chips

    but it’s more than that. The cost of ultrabooks is quite relatively high right now, but will steadily change in a year or two. The high end consumer is the first to consume bleeding edge technologies like the MBA/ultrabooks, but ultrabooks are the ideal laptop especially if 15″ form factors start to appear and Thunderbolt docking stations take off. I don’t think consumers will buy anything but SSD/driveless laptops in 3-5 years.

    Intel’s move is to get other brands established so they become known for these ultrabooks also. If the MBA becomes the largest percentage of ultrabooks Intel definitely looses a lot of flexibility and control on the market. the economies of scale for apple and MBA will be so huge that no one will be able to compete with the exotic materials needed to build large thin laptops

  6. Serious computing IN AN iConsumer Fashion.

    A total touch screen MacBookAir. Furthering the iOS integration to a evidentiaul evolution.
    MBA seems to be a device likely this to happen on first. And as many here have admitted to… the form and function of the iPad had eroded the ultra laptop markets – even Apples own.

    1. There will be NO touch screen MacBook Air. Apple tested the concept in the lab. It FAILed miserably. This is why, of course, there will be Ultrabooks with touch screens, which will also FAIL, but out in the public market. Darn.

      The only exceptions on Ultrabooks might be the ones that let you flip the screen around 180º so you can turn it into a fat and clunky OtherPad with a keyboard on the bottom 8O,
      – OR –
      The ones that let you remove the screen entirely so you can use it as, you guessed it, an OtherPad. Therefore, it’s technically not an ‘Ultrabook’, just an OtherPad with an accessible keyboard, which Apple already has, of course.

      1. To be able to use a screen part time… As one currently switches between interfaces along with the trackpad and keyboard would be very compelling. But yea, to use it 100%of the time would suck.

      2. I think Windows 8 will see a revival of those “convertible” tablets (minus stylus this time). That is, a tablet with built-in keyboard that turn into laptop. It will be a way for the iPad competition to go where Apple will not go… Apple will NEVER do one, because for Apple, it’s either a tablet with touchscreen or a laptop with keyboard/trackpad (NOT both). To do both in one device is an exercise in compromise, which makes it a good fit for Windows 8. 🙂

        However, no one liked them very much the first time around (before iPad), so it will be a SHORT revival.

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