The MacBook Air has been available since Macworld 2008. At the time of the original announcement, Steve Jobs was particularly proud of Apple’s partnership with Intel, which delivered a powerful and yet very efficient custom Core Duo processor. The announcement was such a big deal that Jobs had Intel’s CEO (at the time), Paul Otellini, take center stage to give a brief speech. Moreover, this was Apple’s first Mac OS X product that did not use a traditional hard drive but a solid state drive (SSD) instead. While the price:performance ratio wasn’t as impressive, Apple did what it always does — deliver value. Apple continued to push the envelop of technology and design through the MacBook Air, and over time, extended their lead over the competition, in what is now known as the ultrabook market.
But six years later in 2014 we have run into a conundrum. Over time the MacBook Air shifted to standardized Core i5 or i7 processors from Intel — just like the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air can also ramp up to 512GB of SSD — just like the MacBook Pro. The only differences between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are the options for:
- A traditional hard drive (500GB)
- Intel Iris Graphics GPU
- CD/DVD Drive
- Retina Display
- Additional Interface Ports
In today's world, there is only one item between the two models that is the key differentiator, the retina display. Granted, the retina display may require the Intel Iris Graphics GPU, instead of the standard Intel HD Graphics GPU to effectively drive the so many pixels, but the point is most people aren’t buying a MacBook Pro because of a CD/DVD drive or the option for a traditional hard drive. The middle of the pack 13-inch MacBook Pro model cannot boast a retina display, nor can it brag about it's ultra thin and light design. It has become a legacy product stuck between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with retina display. Simply put, the legacy 13" MacBook Pro's days are numbered.
When then is the difference between the MacBook Pro with retina display and the MacBook Air? Product lines that become so similar in look, weight and specifications causes confusion with consumers — and confusion creates doubt, which slows sales. What Apple wants to avoid is people coming into their retail stores and spending 45 minutes to an hour trying to decide which laptop to get, then walking out with nothing. Steve Jobs was a master at delivering clarity in product offerings, making decisions for the consumer easy. The MaBook Air and MacBook Pro lines are blurred and, for Apple, deliver too many choices that do not make much of a difference for the user.
If Apple is to stay true to it's simple instead of complex approach, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro product lines will merge into one single lineup called the MacBook Air. The new product line would consolidate into four models. There would be no hard drives used going forward. The only difference in price would be between an 11" or 13" display, SSD storage, RAM and whether the model contains a retina display or not. Proper pricing between 11" and 13" versions would ensure product purchasing confusion does not exits.
In order to indicate real change in the product line, Apple should change the casing color on these new MacBook Air’s to black instead of the traditional metallic silver. This color change with the new unified laptop lineup would further drive demand by those who must have the latest version and for those who want to be seen by others as having the newest and the best.
Merging the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro product lines is what Apple needs to bring to the table this Fall when releasing new version of their laptops. Otherwise we can expect muddled MacBook sales, which is a disservice to Apple and their customers.
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