When it comes to choosing a new laptop, there are traditionally two separate camps; those that use Apple Macs and those that go with Windows-ready laptops from a manufacturer like Sony, Dell or Hewlett Packard.
The difference between these two groups comes down to a few different factors – operating system preference, past experience and, perhaps most importantly, price.
MacBooks, in their various forms, have long had the reputation as a costly ‘designer’ choice of laptop. The familiar refrain from laptop users is that they can get the same for much less money. MacBook users might respond that they get more battery power, less weight and greater resale value. The debate is endless.
What is for certain, however, is that Apple has slashed the prices of its MacBook Air models and, at the same time, gave the line a processor upgrade.
With price now becoming less of an issue, this article will explore why and how Apple has made this move and what it means for those contemplating a move to the MacBook Air.
Apple’s pricing has always been a part of their business model. The higher prices that their products command gives them an air of prestige and desirability.
This cachet of cool comes from the unique, great designs that Apple has developed for all of its products, all with a similar thread of design running through them. This is part of the reason that once someone ‘converts’ to Apple, they soon find they almost exclusively use an iPhone, an iPod and so forth.
Positioning themselves as almost a lifestyle choice as much as a manufacturer of phones, computer and mp3 players has enabled Apple to sell products for higher prices than their contemporaries.
However, in the laptop and PC markets, this approach is quickly falling apart. The reason for this lies largely with Sony.
Sony, for the third time, has recently revised its net losses for the year of 2013. They predict that these losses will come in at a colossal $1.25 billion dollars.
This matters because a large chunk of those losses come from their PC arm. It especially matters because Sony had a strategy of marketing their laptops as expensive, desirable items. For Apple, that all sounds eerily familiar.
With the Sony debacle, Apple received a fortunate peek into the future of the laptop market. It shows a considerable shift in where consumers are willing to spend premium money, and laptops are no longer top of the list.
This is why Apple has slashed prices considerably on their MacBook Air line.
An 11.6-inch MacBook Air, with a previous starting price of £849, now comes in at £749. Similarly, the 13.3-inch Air has seen a £100 drop in price, going from £949 to £849. These are entry-level models, packing 4GB of memory and a 128GB solid-state drive.
Prices for upper-echelon models with 256GB solid-state drives have seen the same £100 drop in price. All models come with the standard Intel HD 5000 graphics card.
However, the drop in price comes with an upgrade – something quite rare on the laptop market- in the form of a boosted 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 processor.
All of this points to Apple wanting to bring their point-of-sale prices in line with other manufacturers and push up sales.
They have come to realise that the premium markets – in terms of what consumers will pay – are now firmly the tablet and mobile phone.
Apple has been here before. They saw iPod sales figures tumble 31 percent from 2012-2013, largely due to the increased storage capacity and ease-of-use of iPhones. Whilst it is an enviable position to have one your own products overtaking one another, Apple is being proactive in tuning their MacBook Air prices to the wider market.
If it is anything, Apple is about being ahead of the curve –whether it is design or sales strategy. This is just what the £100 price drops across the board on the MacBook Air line illustrates.
This re-pricing move by Apple, whilst offering boosted performance at the same time, might signal a sea change in how Apple handles their pricing structure in the future.
The negative 7 percent growth that Apple saw at the beginning of the year may dictate that prices have to come down to tempt more consumers to Apple.
This probably does not mean an end to the rarefied prices of all Apple products, but demonstrates the desire to put them in as many hands as possible. This will help boost slowing growth and might drum up more interest for Apple’s rumoured new MacBook – the 12-inch Retina MacBook.
The pricing of any new models will reveal any new approach Apple takes to pricing, with others manufacturers watching with interest at pricing and sales figures.
For now, Apple has given the market MacBooks at prices never seen before and the real winners are those that have long lusted after that elusive Mac.