Apple changed the MacBook. Again. It was just months ago that most of the best selling MacBook line, formerly made of black or white polycarbonate plastic and with fewer features than their more expensive MacBook Pro brethren, became aluminum and expensive. Did Apple make a mistake by shipping higher priced MacBooks at a time when economic woes dictated lower prices? Some contend that Apple flipped the flop by moving the MacBooks into the Pro line.
Apple sells more notebooks than anything in the Mac line. The less expensive, less feature-laden MacBooks were the darling of college students and sold briskly.
Sure, the old plastic MacBooks were dated, underpowered (compared to the MacBook Pro line), and less green than they could be, but they sold well. Very well.
When the economy began to sour last year what did Apple do? Lower prices? No. Introduce new models? Yes. The MacBook became aluminum and received a higher price tag but with fewer features, power, capability than the Pro models.
Robin Harris of ZDNet considered those then new MacBooks as either a flop or a fiasco.
Netbooks are moving prices into iPod Touch territory. And with Moore’s Law pushing performance up more people will buy them instead of standard notebooks. But Apple’s biggest problem is that it is building extra cost into a product category that is moving down in average selling price. Windows notebook prices have dropped 20% in the last 2 years – while Macbook prices have stayed steady.
Those first aluminum MacBooks were great, yes, but overpriced examples of form over function over the customer’s willingness to shell out Lexus cash when the need is for a Toyota. Harris nailed it:
Macs are good systems, but Apple’s made mistakes before with design and pricing. The unibody design, like the iMac swing arm, will be a 1-generation aberration.
Only time will tell. Wait. It did already. Apple buckled under market pressure. Or, did they?
Within months the entire MacBook line was unexpectedly gutted, leaving a lone white MacBook as the company’s entry to the profitable notebook line. The aluminum MacBooks became MacBook Pros, got a few new features, and lower price tags.
Apple flipped and flopped and fixed it, right? Harris on ZDNet again:
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.
You gotta love it when Apple seems to flop then flip quickly and make all the right moves. The new MacBook Pro line is to die for. What’s not too like, folks? Lower prices. Faster. Greener. Cool and chic. Bigger drives. More options. Even SD card slots.
Apple did a back flip. Or not.
Reading Tea Leaves
Figuring out what Apple will do and when could keep a ZDNet paid staffer busy until retirement. Did Apple flip flop in less than six months, or did Apple plan these interim products all along?
And, if there is a Pro notebook, what is the non-Pro Mac notebook? That white $999 MacBook looks very lonely down at the end of the price list, no?
Harris looks in the wrong direction:
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.
What’s important right now is not what Apple is doing. They’re doing it right. Better products. Lower prices. Harris nails it again. It’s what Apple is not doing yet that is the big question for the remainder of 2009.
New MacBook Pro models? Check. New iPhones? Check. New OS X? Check. New iPods? They’ll come soon enough, so, Check. New, lower priced, revolutionary, must-have-one MacBooks? Uh, check back in a few months.
The writing is out there. It’s just not on the wall. The new MacBook will be smaller, thinner, less expensive, smaller multi-touch screen with on-screen keyboard, USB, wireless, Bluetooth, no SuperDrive, and not even a hard drive.
I want one.