When the MacBook Air was first released in 2008 its audience was limited even by Apple standards. The laptop cost $1800, it wasn’t exceptionally powerful, and it didn’t include an optical drive. Its price and features put it out of the range of the average consumer and it appealed more to executives who needed a small laptop to use while travelling. On top of that, it received some bad press because of overheating issues.
Flash forward to the present day, and now thankfully not only have most of us have stopped using CDs and DVDs, but the MacBook Air has become a key product in the Mac family.
In last year’s October 2010 update to the Air lineup, Apple introduced a major update to the laptop and released two new 11″ and 13″ models, with an updated design, and SSD storage. The most major change with that update was a new price point, with the 11″ base model only costing $999.
This MacBook Air was said to be inspired by iOS and the iPad, with the best features of both showing through in a laptop. These Airs touted work-day battery life (5 & 7 hours), month long battery life in Sleep Mode. We also saw “Instant On,” where like the iPhone and iPad, the laptop would wake up from sleep mode almost instantly.
In July 2011, Apple made even more improvements to the MacBook Air, including a backlit keyboard, a Thunderbolt port, and a more powerful processor.
In July, along with introducing now the 5th generation of Airs, another big update to Apple’s product line was the discontinuation of the MacBook.
This is an example where even with already remarkable success and growth, Apple is an organization that stays real to their values and focus by being able to get rid of their good products to make their great ones better.
How is this change going to impact the MacBook Air, Apple, or the general laptop market?
The Air is one of the most impressive pieces of hardware on the market, but even with more updates, it has still seemed unaccessible to the average laptop buyer. Now as the entry level Mac, it should be clear to consumers that this is for them, and more people should consider buying an Air as their primary computer. For anyone who doesn’t need serious performance for graphics or multimedia work, and for anyone who doesn’t keep a music library of over 50GB, the Air gets you a great Mac.
The most important market impact I expect is consumers developing a taste for the qualities that make the MacBook Air exceptional. Right now you can only get the same aesthetic qualities that make the Air unique with PCs once you get up to the $1,600 price range. If the Air sells more, then we’re going to see competitors make laptops that mimic it. We’ll see more clones and a shift by PC manufacturers to make laptops that are more Air-like, just as we saw with the design of smartphones after the launch of the iPhone, and of tablets after the iPad.
How’s this going to effect Apple? We’re seeing an organization that’s as aligned and focused across they whole product and services as they’ve ever been. Them being able to make such a large decision that will directly effect consumers, and that will immediately effect their revenues is a sign that complacency won’t be slowing them down anytime soon.
The MacBook Air is going to play a bigger part in Apple’s business because it better represents the direction that the technology, and the direction the company is going in. An approachable, hassle free computer no longer needs to be communicated via the mom-friendly, approachable white plastic design, but now instead by what OSX, iCloud and the software is going to enable – hassle free, seamless and automatic information and media management.