Apple's MacBook Air: Really the 'ultimate everyday notebook'?

Summary:Apple has anointed the MacBook Air its mainstream entry level notebook, but the company may be missing an opportunity to really appeal to newbies.

Apple has anointed the MacBook Air its mainstream entry level notebook, but the company may be missing an opportunity to really appeal to newbies.

Gallery: New MacBook Air and Mac mini

In a nutshell, Apple nuked the white MacBook and swapped in the MacBook Air (see hands on). In terms of sex appeal, the move is a no-brainer, but there is a bit of mourning in the discussion boards of various blogs.

Reaction thus far seems to be mixed. On CNET News' story about the end of the white MacBook some buyers noted that the previous model didn't garner interest. Another person said:

That really sucks. The Macbook was a great computer for students. Some of us would rather have a full laptop than the ultra-portable that is the Macbook Air.

The MacBook Air starts at $999 for the 11-inch model and the 13-inch version starts at $1,299.

In return, you get Intel's i5 processor and no optical drive. Prices across the MacBook Air spectrum run $999 to $1,599. "MacBook Air is the ultimate everyday notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief.

Why can't the MacBook Air be an entry level laptop? Here are a few trouble spots for me:

  • No optical drive. Folks want to use DVDs on the go. Apple's entry level Mac with an optical drive has a much higher price point.
  • Price. Couldn't Apple hit a better price point for an entry level model, say $799.
  • Does the entry level user really value the thin-is-in mentality? If it's an entry level PC chances are good you'll let the kids bang around on it. Do you really want the kids on a MacBook Air?
  • Are we really all cloud centric? The MacBook Air indicates a reliance on iTunes and the cloud due to a starting point of 64GB of disk. The white MacBook had more space (250 GB) in a hard drive.
  • The iPad. The arrangement of Apple's product line-up speaks to two themes: You're either thin or your MacBook Pro. And you're paying up. The subliminal message is that Apple thinks that the iPad is now the entry level laptop. Apple operating chief Tim Cook acknowledged as much on the company's earnings conference call:

In terms of cannibalization, we do believe that some customers chose to purchase an iPad instead of a new Mac during the quarter. But we also believe that even more customers chose to purchase an iPad over a Windows PC. As I have said before, there is a lot more of the Windows PC business to cannibalize then the Mac.

Ultimately, the market decides. Is the MacBook Air really your idea of an entry level laptop? Or does the iPad fill that role now?

The other side of the argument via CNET: Can the MacBook Air replace the White MacBook? Maybe it's not trying to.

Related:

CNET coverage:

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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