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A cheaper MacBook Air makes perfect business sense for Apple

  • Apple is reportedly planning to launch a cheaper 13-inch MacBook Air during the second quarter, according to KGI Securities.
  • It makes perfect sense for Apple, since it doesn't currently offer a laptop that costs under $999. That doesn't help it compete with more affordable Windows 10 laptops.
  • Apple used to have a more affordable 11-inch MacBook Air but killed it in 2016.

Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

A recent KGI Securities note said Apple is planning to launch a cheaper 13-inch MacBook Air during the second quarter of this year. It makes perfect sense for Apple to make this move, and I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

Apple currently only offers a $999 MacBook Air that, despite upgrades to its processor, hasn't changed drastically in years. It still has the same low-resolution display, for example. Apple's next most affordable MacBook is the $1,299 model, which has a sharper but smaller 12-inch display, only has a single USB-C port and is a bit more cramped to use.

There's a market for a more affordable MacBook Air, including me. Last year, for example, I purchased the $1,299 MacBook but found that it was too tiny for me to use comfortably for work, even though I loved the compact size for travel. I ended up returning it and buying a Lenovo laptop with a 4K touch screen, several USB ports, an SD card slot and larger display for the same price.

I would have purchased a MacBook Air, but I felt that $999 was too much compared with similar notebooks running Windows 10. If Apple launches a notebook somewhere in the $799 to $999 range, maybe keeps some of the legacy hardware including the SD slot and additional USB ports that are still found on the current MacBook Air, I'd be all in.

Plus, with dozens of new Windows laptops that are premium and still cost under $1,000, Apple is losing out on potential customers who want to save money but still want a high-end product. Apple used to offer an affordable option with its 11.6-inch MacBook Air, but it killed that off in 2016.

Apple could increase MacBook sales volume, too, if it plays its cards right.

"In the PC world, particularly notebooks, there is a direct relationship between price and volume," Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told CNBC. "If Apple wanted to sell more MacBooks they could do that easily by having a $799 price point." The problem is Apple hasn't historically made products for the low-end market, Moorhead said.

Plus, while the iPad Pro 10.5 works for some folks as a full-fledged work machine, it's still not powerful enough for me to get any real work done. A cheaper MacBook Air could be the sweet spot Apple needs.

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