Laptops

Cheaper Mac Laptops Expected

In response to purse-tightening consumers and the popularity of cheap netbooks, Apple is "tailoring changes" that will "drive down prices" of the most popular Mac models. So goes a rumor from AppleInsider that rings true enough to bear repeating:

Consumers in the coming months can look forward to more affordable versions of both the 13-inch MacBook and iMac, according to people who've proven extremely reliable in predicting Apple's future business directions. The MacBook -- which currently starts at US$999 when fitted with a previous-generation polycarbonate enclosure and $1299 in an aluminum unibody casing -- is the bestselling Mac in terms of volume. The iMac is the most popular Mac desktop.

It's believed that the first batch of more affordable Macs could turn up as early as this spring.

mac laptop
Industry Standard editor Ian Lamont predicted in December that Apple would terminate the iMac desktop line, because of the mass market's move to low-cost, portable computers. I politely disagree: I use a 24" iMac to crank out articles for the Standard every day, and I can't imagine replacing my baby with anything other than another iMac. I don't want a MacBook connected to a Cinema Display -- $3,400 rather than $1,500 for the same specs.

But Apple-watchers have known for months that Apple couldn't possibly be ignoring the recession-driven shift in the PC market away from $1,000 notebooks to $300 netbooks. Acer chairman J.T. Wang has forecast that 1 in 4 laptops bought next year will be netbooks. Gartner's more conservative forecast says that'll be true in three years max.

Steve Jobs famously said, "We don't know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk." Since when does Jobs ever claim not to know how to do something? Former Apple engineer Andy Hertzfeld, in his book Revolution in the Valley, documented Jobs' drive to build a cheap, yet powerful personal computer. The price of the Mac was one of Jobs' biggest fallouts with new CEO John Sculley.

Cheaper Macs at this point are a given. What remains to be seen for fans is how Apple will redefine the idea of low-cost computer.

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