Apple's MacBook flop - fixed!

6 months ago I asked: Apple's new MacBooks: flop or fiasco? Apple answered "flop" by backpedalling on pricing, the unibody and FireWire - in record time!
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

6 months ago I asked: Apple's new MacBooks: flop or fiasco? Apple answered "flop" by backpedalling on pricing, the unibody and FireWire - in record time!

The big loser? Microsoft's successful ads focused on price. Maybe that's a card you don't want to play.

Pricing The 32% price cut on the slightly upgraded SSD MacBook Air - 1.86GHz to 2.13Ghz - is just a down payment. The big news is the new price point for the 15" MacBook Pro: $1699 - down 15%.

These new price points are permanent. Despite the myth that Apple doesn't cut prices, they have moved price points down many times over the years.

But other price drops - and the aggressive "buy a MacBook, get an iPod Touch" offer - portend even more pricing actions for the Christmas season. Apple isn't about to let Mac momentum die. This is good news for all consumers - Mac and PC.

Unibody Last November I called the unibody "a costly addition that no one was asking for." And guess what: no more unibody MacBooks. MacBook Pro's yes. But now the name MacBook is only on the plastic model.

That's a great move. Apple needs a price-optimized entry level system. Expect to see even more aggressive pricing on MacBooks now that there are 2 visually distinct brands again.

Firewire Not widely used on PCs, FireWire is the preferred interconnect for high-speed Mac peripherals. Not only is it faster than USB, but the spec supports up to 45 watts of power at up to 30 volts - great for powering external drives, mixers and other devices without another power brick.

On the new 13" unibody MacBook Pro FireWire has returned in an even faster 800Mb/s version. An adapter will connect existing 400Mb/s devices.

And on the low-end MacBook? FireWire 400 never went away.

The Storage Bits take The econoclypse has sobered up Cupertino: Microsoft's campaign made price an issue that Apple couldn't ignore. And they didn't.

Apple doesn't need price parity with Wintel to keep their business healthy and growing. These price drops affect people at the margin: people who wanted a Mac but found the lure of a lower price too tempting. Some of those folks will now buy a 'Book.

The big lesson is for Microsoft. The marketing adage, "Win on price - lose on price" applies here.

With the iPhone on a major roll and Mac margins that are the envy of the PC world, Apple is well-positioned to play the price game. Macs get top ratings from Consumer Reports because regular folks like them better - if they can afford them.

Longer term, Wintel has no choice but to build better products - or become the General Motors of the PC world.

Comments welcome, of course. Sure, USB claims "480Mb/s" but that's bidirectional bandwidth. FW400 is faster and FW800 is way faster. But USB 3.0 is coming next year. . . . And BTW, who is shipping those 500GB 7200 rpm notebook drives? Haven't seen that announcement.

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