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The Middle Way, and Why Apple Will Reboot the MacBook (charliepark.org)
19 points by charliepark on Apr 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

Au contraire. Apple will drop Air and Pro and unify them all in one simple choice for the consumer, just pick your screen size in 11, 13, 15 and 17 inches.

That's it. Apple's simplicity and beauty.

What I would like is Apple to split and create a less expensive (but never cheap) brand to bring back plastic Airs in colors, for just $799, and affordable minis also in plastic and colors for $399, increasing its penetration in OS and Apps which in the long run expands their ecosystem and dominance.

I agree. I also want to say that a lot of the argument in this post revolves around the option for an optical drive. I think it's much more likely that Apple eliminates the built-in optical drive across models and releases an updated external version with Thunderbolt for the pro market.

Yep, I got an Air and never had the need to use an optical drive. Even downloading 4GB of Xcode over the wire is not a burden anymore. 'Bag of hurt' comes to mind.

My 13" MBA is the absolute best computer I have ever owned (and I have been using laptops daily for 15 years).

Agreed. I have used the optical drive on my MBP exactly once, to verify that it worked.

I went back and forth between a MBA 13" and a MBP 17". There are stark contrasts here. So why did I end up with a MBA 13"? It has the form factor akin to the iPad; in that you can take it anywhere. When you're carrying a MBP or other larger notebook around you sometimes feel like you might be carrying too much with you.

The higher resolution on the MBA convinced me overall. Since I've had the MBA, I guestimated that I'd use "Remote Disc" at least a few times. I've never used it and never needed to. Software on a disc is almost always older than what I can download online, I don't play games or music - but if I did it would be digital/App Store anyhow.

A 15" Air would be a great addition.

>When Apple dropped floppy drives from the iMac, they were dealing with an early-adopter set of consumers.

No, this is incorrect. The iMac was the computer for people that were new to computers and the internet. It was the computer for everyone, not early-adopter gadget geeks. When they dropped the floppy there was an enormous amount of bitching from said gadget geeks, yet the computer still sold very well with the general consumer.

The rest of the article is iffy at best, I don't see Apple adding another tier of laptop products when they are simplifying their other product lines (e.g. iPad 2 -> iPad)

MacBooks are gone, they were replaced with Airs. Basically it is size vs performance. MacBook Pros are fast, Airs are sleek. Given the choice people want an Air form, but sometimes people can't choose them (game performance, faster compiling, whatever).

The original MacBook was a cheap alternative to the pro. That is now the Air, MacBooks aren't coming back. When the Air form is as fast as a Pro, the pro form factor will disappear as well.

I agree, the old choice was "Fast, cheap or thin" for MB Pro, MB, and MB Air respectively. The current choice is "Fast or thin." Why on earth would they want to reintroduce the cheap? And if they did, why would they make it more expensive than the thin?

Agreed, the Air form factor is the future... and Apple will likely hold on to the Pro line as long as there's a decent demand... after which, there will be only one line... the Air (which they might rename to just Macbook).

I've been using my MBP with an external DVD drive for a while now and I've been happy with it. What makes you think Apple wouldn't just drop the internal drive and supply an external one for a few years?

I think they could absolutely do that. It's possible they could do both — reintroduce the MacBook and also reduce the Pro form factor down to match the Air. At that point, the question becomes "how would they sufficiently distinguish between the regular and the Pro" ... and that might be where retina displays, higher storage, touchscreens, etc. come into play.

The tiering strategy is what I find really interesting, so that's what I wanted to explore with the post. But, yeah, I could see them dropping the optical drive, and that seems to be what most people project will happen.

I was a little surprised when they released the Thunderbolt Display without a built-in optical drive. I fully expected them to make that into a de-facto docking station and drop the drive from all portables and the Mac Mini (they did so on the latter) - a slimline drive and controller would have added very little cost considering the Thunderbolt electronics (i.e. a PCIe bus) are already in there anyway.

But then the whole Thunderbolt thing really hasn't taken off - I suspect Intel is artificially keeping the bridge chips' away from general availability to keep prices high. Which has resulted in a rather lacklustre product line-up one year after launch.

Why do they necessarily have to "sufficiently distinguish between the regular and the Pro"? Why not just drop the Pro and Air labels and unify into one line?

Easier to market, cheaper to stock and support. More streamlined. Doesn't that seem more like Apple?

I was surprised that having less part numbers wasn't one of the counter-arguments the author included. Because Apple has so few products it makes their supply and distribution chains more efficient. The economies of scale are a huge part of their profitability.

Thats why I assume they will have the same number of laptop models or less in the future.

That's a good point. I've updated the post. (The site's cache might take a few minutes to clear.)

Simpler solution:

Add MBA with 15" screen.

Retina display only on MBP models.

Nice stair step pricing and less confusing overlap. Either slimmer and lighter or faster and better graphics. No 11" MBP because people demanding nice graphics want bigger displays. No 17" MBA b/c thin and huge doesn't appeal to anyone.

"Apple will come out with a brand new version of the MacBook line, in 13″ and 15″ screen sizes. It’ll have the Air’s form factor, but will use larger-capacity drives."

Yeah, lost me there. Apple's not going to come out with a higher-priced product under a _different_ brand name that looks essentially identical to an existing product in their line.

The author is overthinking it. They upgrade the MBA line, add a 15" version. Maybe update the MBP line, removing the optical drives (let's face it, they're going) but keeping superior graphics and maybe room for a second drive. Much easier to explain, fewer SKUs, etc.

Or, more radically, they just up the power on the MBA line (maybe having more processors options per size) and just drop the MBP as a line. Call them all Macbooks. Have 3 sizes with 2-3 processors each. Done.

I'd imagine Apple just releasing a 15" MacBook Air. Keeping it simple.

He didn't point this out, but the 13" macbook air and the 15" macbook pro have the same screen resolution. The air has a much higher dpi screen.

The 15" Pro has an option for a higher res screen at least; I'm typing this on one with a 1680x1050 screen. I guess you have to pay more for it; one more place where they could potentially simplify the options with a bit less price segmentation.

There is no way that this is going to happen. You can just feel the confusion over the product lines increasing when conceptualizing in the last paragraph before the 'Why?' bit. Now imagine every decision maker at Apple doing the same thing.

Disc drives will be out. Buy all your stuff at iTunes.

As for what consumers will want to buy...whatever Apple tells them to.

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