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Apple to Produce 15″ MacBook Air, Continue Missing the Point?

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A number of blogs are reporting on the possibility that Apple might be working on a new, 15-inch model MacBook Air.

The news is based on reports from the hit-and-miss Chinese blog’s track record, as described by AppleInsider, puts their accuracy in predicting new products at around 50 percent, which is actually fairly high when you look at it in the context of the wider Apple news and rumor community. Leading up to the October Apple notebook event, they produced both real, and fake photos and videos of the aluminum unibody MacBooks, indicating that at least some of their sources are dependable.

So far, the details of the new MacBook Air model they believe to be in the works are limited at best. They seem not to be even sure that the 15-inch size is accurate, just that the new models will be larger than the existing ones. They also claim the machine will use Intel “Core 2” processors, which again, isn’t really saying much. They do, however, promise more information to come in the future.

The MacBook Air currently offered by Apple is very much a niche product. It trades power for enhanced portability, and I honestly believe that it appeals to consumers more as a status symbol than anything else. A larger model would obviously increase the device’s footprint, taking away some of its appeal as an ultra-portable device. It would also boost power requirements, which could be offset if Apple uses their new battery design, which would actually add good functional advantage to the new model. Still, anyone who would really value the extra screen real estate would also probably want a better performer, and go for the MacBook Pro.

I think that if Apple is genuinely planning a new, larger model of MacBook Air, regardless of the new features they introduce (better battery, optical drive, etc.), they would be in danger of proving themselves drastically out of touch with the market. It would be like Chrysler or GM putting their money into developing luxury pick-up trucks in today’s automotive climate.

I know Apple has based their success to date on being an uncompromising, high-end brand, but it’s time to look at the numbers and realize who’s taking huge chunks out of your market share. That’s Acer, on the strength of their netbooks. You’re not going to win back those customers by releasing boutique laptops with $1800+ price tags, no matter how much more that might be in keeping with your brand image.

14 Responses to “Apple to Produce 15″ MacBook Air, Continue Missing the Point?”

  1. I have a 15″ macbook pro. I like the screen size. I don’t need a built in cd-rom drive. I could do without a firewire port. I wish it was a LOT lighter. Half the weight would be nice. This is why I would buy a 15″ macbook air. Although I think they might just do away with the cd-rom drive in the macbook pro’s soon. They will also do away with conventional hard drives and move to ssd in all the laptops. This will make the macbook pro line even lighter so I might just want to upgrade to a new macbook pro down the line. Well see….

  2. Scott Boyer

    Have you failed to notice that many more people are merely downloading the movies they watch?
    That’s what Apple is banking on, that in the future more fold will be net dependent, and eschew the optical drives just like machines don’t have floppy drives in them. Apple was one of the first to ditch the floppy in favor of CD, then DVD, etc. This is just the next incarnation.

  3. Dwight might have a point. A larger MacBook Air might be feasible as an upward expansion of the Air line. I am not sure of how that might drive costs down but It might do just that. Add to it the downward cost of components and the 13″ might drop in price, which I would welcome.

    MacBook Air is a niche product, yes. I think too that it’s a platform for testing out some new concepts that will, or have already, made it to the main line of MacBooks. Right now it’s the LED-based backlight, the laser-cut aluminum body and the illuminated keyboard, but the smaller-sized chipset, permanent battery and solid-state drive are not far behind. I know the aluminum body and the backlit keyboard are probably not new to that model, but those two have become standard now across the line. The rest probably will too.

  4. Apple isn’t missing the point. They make more money than most of their competitors combined despite having on a small share of the market. In recent years they’ve made very few mistakes with new hardware. Anyone who calls the Air a mistake because it doesn’t sell all that well is completely missing the point. Apple, for better or worse, only introduces a new product if it won’t cannibalize sales of their existing products to any great degree. The Air sells almost exclusively to new buyers and those seeking a second (or third) computer. Introduction of the 13″ Air had minimal effect on sales of the MacBook and MacBookPro.

    If they introduce a 15″ Air you can bet they’re counting on it to add sales not simply move people from one model to another.

    I really hope Apple doesn’t force us all into “cloud” computing. I’m a MobileMe member with the default 20GB of online storage. I’d love to keep encrypted backups of data on a server in a different part of the world so it would be safe from theft of my computer, fire or natural disaster, but iDisk is so unbelievably slow that it’s useless.

  5. I think diferent. Air is today a standalone modwl. Macbook is a very good pine of 3 notebooks. Aple Macbook air has an advantege in portability, macbook in power. In my opinion apple will prepare an air row (11, 13, 15″), book row (13,15,17) and iphone row (nano, 3G, touch netbook).

  6. I’m more interested in the actual practicality of a 15″ MacBook Air. I may be one of those “consumers” who prefer it “more as a status symbol than anything else…” But that said, I actually, and honestly wondered if Apple would ever release this exact model. It may be a very niche market, but for those who prefer light, thin platforms as opposed to powerhouse’s, it could be the ideal solution. Especially if you travel considerably for business. You only need it for basic computing (mostly web use, basic apps), and the larger screen space would just be added luxury. I’d love to hear other thoughts on the matter.

    • Warren

      I agree. I travel a ton, and the weight is more important than the powerhouse computing,. I really only need office and the web when I travel, and the 128 Gig HD is fine. The screen would be great in 15″

  7. I think you hit the nail right on the head, Leo. Look at high end car companies too – Lamborghini doesn’t care that they don’t have the most market share.

    As well, Apple has demonstrated time and time again that it redefines traditional markets. The 15″ air fits perfectly if you look at the portfolio of products that Apple is moving towards. Their strategy seems to be geared towards cloud computing. I can’t think of any other company that’s taking this approach with hardware which puts Apple in a great position.

  8. Leo Bulero

    Market share is irrelevant. *Revenue* share is what is important, and selling disposable boxes for $400 and margins of cents is not the way to increase revenue share. Just ask Gateway.

  9. If this is true, it could potentially be part of Apple’s ongoing strategy of moving technology “downmarket” as new technology becomes cheaper.

    I.e., this “new” 15″ MacBook Air would replace the current 13″ MacBook Air. The 13″ MacBook Air would then be priced considerably lower (maybe sub-$1,000, more likely priced comparable with the 13″ MacBook) and positioned as an upscale netbook alternative. The MSI Wind MacBook Air clone will likely be priced around $800 or so, and Apple could charge a 20% – 30% premium over that product and likely find many buyers.

    There is precedent for this strategy with iPods, iPhones, and even the last generation MacBook.

    Yeah, I realize that this a bunch of “maybes”, but I can envision a world in which this would work.

  10. I think this rumor/rant is off the mark.

    Apple has shown they have no issue pulling the plug on products that are unsuccessful.

    Just because some value-oriented brand (cheap) like Acer is going to shovel low profit junk in volume, doesn’t mean Apple should cheapen their brand to compete.

    If I were Apple I would rather produce 20% of what my competitor does, while reaping an exceptionally high profit margin, then destroy my brand and profits.