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Summary:

Siliconrumors has posted a news item claiming that its “sources” have indicated Apple is preparing some new additions to its MacBook Air family of laptops. In short, the rumors talk of an integrated 3G radio assembly, allowing connectivity to high-speed cell networks. Also touted is a […]

Siliconrumors has posted a news item claiming that its “sources” have indicated Apple is preparing some new additions to its MacBook Air family of laptops.

In short, the rumors talk of an integrated 3G radio assembly, allowing connectivity to high-speed cell networks. Also touted is a solid-state drive (SSD) as standard (currently the SSD is an expensive additional option when buying a MacBook Air). Finally, they suggest a price point of between $1,300 and $1,500.

I wouldn’t ordinarily have given this much credence except for the recent apparent consensus in tech journalism reporting (Gene Munster has a LOT to answer for!) that agrees Apple’s much-discussed tablet device won’t see the light of day until 2010.

If Munster’s prediction is correct, it means that Apple must fare another year in an uncertain economic climate. Even with the anticipated next-generation iPhone due to be released this summer, a little more product diversification couldn’t hurt their bottom line. Particularly if Apple tips its hat a little more warmly in the direction of the growing netbook market.

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Apple doesn’t make netbooks; yes, yes, we know. Tim Cook made Apple’s position very clear in April when he said:

When I look at netbooks, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. It’s just not a good consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on. It’s a segment we would not choose to play in.

But sales figures don’t lie, and in fact present a very compelling picture. Earlier this year, ABIresearch released a report (summarized on Macblogz.com) forecasting netbook sales in 2009 would rise to 35 million units (compared to last year’s 10 million). Tellingly, they expect netbook sales to increase to a whopping 140 million by 2013.

ABI Research expects netbook sales to reach an astonishing 140 million units by 2013

ABI Research expects netbook sales to reach an astonishing 140 million units by 2013

So Apple doesn’t want to make netbooks. It’s happy working away on its not-so-secret tablet alternative to the netbook. But in the meantime, there’s a fast-growing demand for lightweight, ultra-portable laptops. Whether you choose to call it a netbook or not, the MacBook Air is the closest thing Apple currently offers to that category of personal computer.

A 3G-enabled, SSD’d MacBook Air wouldn’t set the world on fire, but it would offer an Apple-flavored netbook-esque experience for customers with deeper-than-average wallets. And don’t forget, they’ll offer Apple a lot of valuable lessons about netbook-friendly hardware/software ahead of the launch of their market-changing tablet next year.

  1. I say this is bunk. Apple isn’t one to have “product diversification”.

    Just think back to the 90s. You had the Performa 5220, 5220CD, 5230, 5235, etc.
    There were TOO many to choose from. When Jobs came back, his first order was to simplify the product line.

    Introducing an Air with 3G cannibalizes both existing Macbook and Air sales.

    I don’t see it happening.

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    1. Jeroen Hermans Thursday, August 27, 2009

      3G subscribercardslot will most probably start as an option for build to order Macbook Pro and Macbook Air notebook computers and in the end become standard just as Airport/WiFi did.

      With competitors like the new Nokia’s metal premium netbook with 12 hour batterylife and standard 3G subscribercardslot the Macbook Air will soon adopt a more energy efficient processor AND a 3G subscribercardslot too.

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    2. With all due respect, the comment below is idiotic. So you’re saying, a new product that has new elements that make it better than what Apple is currently selling ‘cannabalizes’ sales – so therefore wouldn’t happen.

      By that logic, Apple would never introduce a product with a faster processor, a better screen, any new features at all … since it would ‘cannabalize’ the products on the shelf.

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  2. [...] be why OS X Snow Leopard has support for 3G. (I don’t think that the Air sells enough to be the reason. If that’s why, then they’re going to severely lower the price of that [...]

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  3. [...] Read the original post:  A New 3G MacBook Air On the Horizon? [...]

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  4. xqlusivevan Friday, May 29, 2009

    wooooooow, that would be awesome. . More info about apple culture here blog.creativedesigns.gr

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  5. I would be happy with the big touchpad/button and the ability to use more than 2 gigs of memory.

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  6. Any thoughts on WHEN?

    I was about to pick up a refurbished Rev B literally this week…..might this 3G option be a month from now? A Year?

    I need a laptop to get me through the summer but I’d rather not spend $1500 if something substantially better is not that far off.

    Pardon me if Im a little naive about apple releases.

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  7. I doubt it, seriously. It’s a amazingly successful market, yes, but it isn’t a profitable one. Asus is complaining about how much money they are losing in the netbook market, and while consumers may like the idea of such cheap devices, it’s not good for the companies bottom line. The only way these companies have been making money is by selling them with network plans attached, which doesn’t seem like such an apple thing to do (outside of the iPhone, obviously).

    Also, cheap low-end consumer electronics has never been a market that Apple has dabbled in, outside of the iPod Shuffle. It just doesn’t seem like something Apple would be targeting, as it’d just end up making OSX look cheap. They don’t want to be Microsoft and Windows here, they want to provide a better end user experience. Windows succeeds by being cheap, and I’m not bashing it, it has its place for the user that only needs cheap. That’s not the way Apple works though.

    Granted, I am even still skeptical about this fabled tablet. Not til I see it in the hands of Jobs do I believe it.

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  8. [...] iPod Touch: we have been hearing a lot about Macbook 3G and Apple netbook. But Apple MediaPad has gotten the most coverage in the news. Can we really get [...]

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  9. [...] learn about the nature of iPhone 3.0 and the pricing plans for it. We are also going to hear about Macbook 3G and the new innovations used on the device. But more importantly, we are goint to understand what [...]

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