Apple’s Budget MacBook Would Be A Risky Decision

Is Apple preparing to launch a new low-cost MacBook to challenge the Chromebook? The details on this potentially gaming-changing laptop come from Digitimes. It’s an exciting possibility, but it comes with risk. And Apple has rarely taken risks with its hardware.

Could a low-cost MacBook be made? Definitely; use the base M1 chipset launched in 2020, add in a 128 GB SSD and an off-the-shelf LCD panel, and use cheaper materials for the chassis and body, and you’re all good for, if not a $799 MacBook, certainly a $899 MacBook.

Should it be made? That’s a bigger question, and as it stands I think the answer is more likely to be no.

The most significant risk would be to Apple’s brand. While there have been ‘cheaper’ products built around the value proposition launched in the past – the iPhone 5C immediately spins to mind – the lure of Apple is to be a part of the in-crowd, to buy into the dream of products that offer more than the norm, and to feel that your money is purchasing a quality product.

Can you do that while pitching a ‘MacBook Budget’? Apple has tried with the 12-inch MacBook, a project launched in 2015 that lasted just four years in the portfolio. What has changed in the meantime that would allow a similar project to gain more traction?

The market for the MacBook family has settled on $999 as the entry-level mark. It’s worth noting that the launch of the M2 MacBook Air saw Apple increase the price of the base model to $1199 while leaving the previous M1 MacBook Air on sale to preserve the psychological “starting from $999” (although there is a relatively well hidden educational discount that can bring it down by $100).

Clearly, the Apple of 2022 was not ready to raise that opening price, maintaining the visibility of that price point was maintained. The same will apply in the other direction. Change that opening price and you devalue that first MacBook Air, the entire MacBook range, and possibly the Mac range as a whole.

In any case, if you are looking for an Apple computer under $999, Tim Cook and his team have an answer. It’s called the iPad.

Now read why you should consider an iPad instead of a new MacBook…


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