Industry observers are predicting that Apple plans to refresh its MacBook Air offerings by releasing new models based on the latest chip technologies from Intel. According to media reports, Concord Adams has been advising clients that Apple has already placed orders with its Asia-based component suppliers for 380,000 units to prime the pipeline.
If Apple does refresh its MacBook Air lineup anytime soon, it won't be because of slipping notebook sales. Apple's mobile PC growth in the first quarter was 52 percent, compared with the same quarter last year, and the MacBook Air has been shipping very well since its last refresh, noted Mika Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner.
"We estimated that Air growth was in triple digits in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010, when I think some people waited to buy a Mac notebook [so] they could see what iPad looked like," she explained. "But the bottom line is that Apple is doing exceptionally well compared to other PC vendors."
A MacBook Air refresh could add the hardware to fully harness the power of Apple's forthcoming Mac OS X Lion, which will have an upgrade price of just $29.99. The low price is part of the company's new strategy to give Mac users access to the iCloud storage capabilities built into the forthcoming iOS 5 platform for mobile devices.
"By Apple having its Mac user base running upgraded software, [this] will expose the Mac base to new features and increase the likelihood they remain on Mac," Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy said.
Apple plans to leverage the value that consumers will see in having the ability to automatically share contacts, calendars, messages, photos, apps and music purchased on iTunes across all of Apple's devices. The goal is to increase the likelihood that the company's growing base of iPhone and iPad users will end up buying multiple devices from Apple, according to Munster and Murphy.
Moving forward, PCs will no longer be a market by themselves, but part of a larger device market within which consumers and professionals will increasingly use the combination of devices that best suits their particular needs, noted Gartner Research Director Ranjit Atwal. "The key is to deliver applications [and the overall] experience onto the optimal device for the user -- not tie the user to one particular device," Atwal said in an e-mail Monday.
Intel's new Core 2 processor, code-named Sandy Bridge, is expressly designed for ultrathin computing form factors less than 20mm (0.8 inch) thick that OEMs will be able to price in the $1,000 range. So in the not-too-distant future, ultraslim models will account for a sizable slice of the global notebook market.
Apple currently has an opportunity to take advantage of the PC market's weakness by establishing itself as the market leader in this segment. Moreover, Intel's Sandy Bridge chip integrates advanced processor graphics that may fit Apple's multimedia-driven marketing strategy.
For example, the ability to handle HD video, 3D, mainstream gaming, and multitasking with low levels of energy consumption would be valuable additions to a next-generation MacBook Air. Moreover, Intel's new 10-Gbps Thunderbolt data-transfer technology would be yet another evolutionary capability that could enhance the capabilities of the MacBook Air.
Posted: 2011-06-13 @ 3:34pm PT
A bigger impact than any processor upgrade, is unifying models - lion will bring "widgets" and "slide screens" to Macs, just like their small devices, so the experience for first timers is uniform and they feel at home. The next logical step for MacBook Air must be a micro sim integration so they become truly connected while portable.