Apple's struggles to meet 13-inch MacBook Air demand trigger price gouging

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
More than a month after introducing its latest Thunderbolt MacBook Airs, Apple is still unable to meet broader demand for the 13-inch models, which can be seen listed at prices well above MSRP on at least one of the internet's largest ecommerce sites.



Since the debut of the Sandy Bridge MacBook Airs over 4 weeks ago, people familiar with the matter say Apple has been unable to equip its indirect reseller channels with any significant stock of the more popular 13-inch models. Those claims are supported via daily reports from our Mac Price Guide (below), which has yet turn up consistent availability at virtually any Apple reseller, including Amazon.com.



Instead, the world's largest online retailer has been promoting (and consumers have been buying) inventory through its affiliate stores, with pricing as much as $200-$300 above MSRP, depending on the day. For example, Amazon currently lists the 128GB 13-inch Air for $1,549, or $250 above retail. The $1,599 256GB model is listed at $1,849.99, up from yesterday's price of $1799.



The remainder of Apple's resellers have no stock of either model, with the exception of MacMall and MacConnection, which for the first time today began reflecting availability of both 13-inch models (1, 2). Meanwhile, nationwide retail partner Best Buy notes that the 128GB model is "Sold Out Online" and has no catalog entry for the 256GB model, suggesting it has yet to take receipt of any stock to sell online.



Interestingly, initial build plans for the new Airs were reported to have been weighted slightly in favor of the 11.6-inch models, suggesting Apple may have underestimated demand for the 13-inch model. It's nevertheless able to produce enough supply for its direct channels.



While resellers wait, Apple's online store continues to list all MacBook Airs as available in 24 hours, and an AppleInsider poll of 10 Apple retail stores across the country found good availability of all models with the exception of a store in Los Angeles that was out of the 128GB 13-inch model.



Like its iPad cousin, the MacBook Air is emerging as a trendsetter in the computer industry, selling millions of units out of the gate and thrusting rivals' efforts to compete into overdrive. For its part, Intel has launched a $300 million Ultrabook fund to invest in companies that adopt a new set of Ultrabook guidelines which are designed to produce results in-line with Apple's Airs.







However, participating PC makers like Asustek Computer and Hewlett-Packard have struggled from the onset to match Apple's MacBook Air pricing after tabulating their own bill-of-materials and manufacturing fee estimates. With concerns that they wouldn't be able to match Apple on price at all this year, the PC makers last week reportedly requested a 50% price cut on Ultrabook CPUs to help them bring down the cost of their designs. Intel denied the request in part, agreeing instead to a more modest 20% price reduction.



Meanwhile, Ultrabook makers are also being out-muscled by Apple on another crucial front: production of unibody metal notebook chassis. Its Air production has reportedly created a shortage of expensive CNC lathes available to manufacture aluminum enclosures, which now have Intel and its partner PC makers "aggressively searching" for new materials that are more affordable to craft into notebook bodies, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, and metal reinforced plastics.







The striking success of the latest generation of Airs and the impact they're having on the market for notebooks underscores consumers' willingness to pay premiums in order to abandon the weighty and cumbersome designs of the past. It may also support rumors that Apple is escalating efforts to introduce new 15- and 17-inch notebooks in ultra-slim designs, possibly before year's end.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    esoomesoom Posts: 155member
    Almost to the one, MBA reviewers said they were going to purchase one or already had.



    I bought one last month and it's awesome, would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Reply 2 of 54
    jj.yuanjj.yuan Posts: 212member
    I am not surprised at all. Actually, I was surprised for this news to come out so late ...
  • Reply 3 of 54
    lamewinglamewing Posts: 742member
    Or simply have too much disposable income.



    Yes, I will buy a 13 inch Macbook Air, but I will not pay more than Apple's price. I will simply wait. It is too bad that so many people will put this higher price on a credit card versus just waiting until supply stabilizes. I guess that mentality is what got America into the mess we are in now.



    Edit: I just checked Apple's online store and there is only a 24 hour wait for this laptop. I am sure they are available at the local Apple stores as well.



    Great journalism AI.
  • Reply 4 of 54
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    After reading fashionbug's posts on another thread about how optical drives are are steadfast requirement for all 'PCs' of the future for doing anything other than consuming I'm surprised these are selling at all¡
  • Reply 5 of 54
    Is that fair trade? Intel will discount its CPUs by 20% to Apple competitors? But not Apple?
  • Reply 6 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lamewing View Post




    Edit: I just checked Apple's online store and there is only a 24 hour wait for this laptop. I am sure they are available at the local Apple stores as well.



    Great journalism AI.



    This info is in the article now... was it not in there initially?
  • Reply 7 of 54
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post


    Is that fair trade? Intel will discount its CPUs by 20% to Apple competitors? But not Apple?



    Intel does discount their product for Apple. What you may be confusing is Intel giving a discount to vendors who wouldn't normally buy their CULV chips in bulk a discount for using their new svelte chassis design. This isn't a play against Apple, it's a defense against ARM. If Intel can't keep people using their chips on these smaller, slower machines they will use billions.
  • Reply 8 of 54
    conrailconrail Posts: 489member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    For example, Amazon currently lists the 128GB 13-inch Air for $1,549, or $250 above retail. The $1,599 256GB model is listed at $1,849.99, up from yesterday's price of $1799.



    It's doubtful that Amazon is price gouging. More likely, one of their fly-by-night "partners" is jacking up the price. For some insane reason, these often come up first in Amazon searches, even when Amazon itself has an item in stock for the same or better price.
  • Reply 9 of 54
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post


    Is that fair trade? Intel will discount its CPUs by 20% to Apple competitors? But not Apple?



    It doesn't say that Apple won't get the same (or better) discount.



    In general, discounts must be justified by good business reasons. Using Intel's entire design MIGHT be a good reason and Apple uses its own designs. However, antitrust law specifically prohibits using pricing in a way which specifically damages only one competitor, so I'd be surprised to see Intel give everyone but Apple a big discount.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Conrail View Post


    It's doubtful that Amazon is price gouging. More likely, one of their fly-by-night "partners" is jacking up the price. For some insane reason, these often come up first in Amazon searches, even when Amazon itself has an item in stock for the same or better price.



    That appears to be the case (one vendor has them listed at $3 K). Amazon has too much to lose by pricing scarce items at a premium.
  • Reply 10 of 54
    When the 2010 models debut, Apple was selling way more 11" models than the 13" model. I got the relatively unpopular 13" at the time, and it's great. Why the reversal in popularity?
  • Reply 11 of 54
    That should be "triggers" price gouging for the non-asian language speakers in the audience trying to understand the headline. The whole thing is pretty awkward though. Dozens of better ways to say the same thing.
  • Reply 12 of 54
    kavokkavok Posts: 51member
    They are being bought up by the Chinese and sent back to China, like the iPad 2 was.
  • Reply 13 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    That should be "triggers" price gouging for the non-asian language speakers in the audience trying to understand the headline. The whole thing is pretty awkward though. Dozens of better ways to say the same thing.



    "trigger" is the correct word here (Apple's struggles (plural) .... trigger ...)



    That being said, I agree with the headline being extremely awkward.
  • Reply 14 of 54
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,262member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


    When the 2010 models debut, Apple was selling way more 11" models than the 13" model. I got the relatively unpopular 13" at the time, and it's great. Why the reversal in popularity?



    I think with the increase in power and the addition of Thunderbolt, more power users are making the leap.
  • Reply 15 of 54
  • Reply 16 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


    When the 2010 models debut, Apple was selling way more 11" models than the 13" model. I got the relatively unpopular 13" at the time, and it's great. Why the reversal in popularity?



    For a lot of people, the 13" model comes very close to meeting their needs. The i5 or i7 is fast enough (with the SSD, also feels fast overall), 256GB SSD is large enough, the screen has the same resolution as the 15" MB Pro, and it is light enough to make it very portable. It is definitely worth the money.
  • Reply 17 of 54
    They're called CNC "milling" machines, not CNC lathes.



    It appears as though Apple is up to its old tricks as the Wintards like to say. Deliberately holding back inventory to hype the products. After all, if consumers aren't buying Wintel PCs, why would they be buying overpriced Apple products?
  • Reply 18 of 54
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by island hermit View Post


    This info is in the article now... was it not in there initially?



    It was.... just 'great reading' on his part.
  • Reply 19 of 54
    drdbdrdb Posts: 99member
    I find it odd that Apple mis-predicted the demand ratio between the 11 and 13 inch models. I would have thought it was obvious there would be a lot of demand for the 13 inch model given the Macbook was discontinued. Most of the people who would have bought a Macbook were going to go for the 13 inch MBA instead I would have thought.
  • Reply 20 of 54
    Assuming Apple is not getting this 20% discount, it is pretty pathetic that PC companies can't even compete with handouts.



    Apple still has a long way to go in marketshare, but companies tend to have a much more difficult time scaling back then ramping up. If PC marketshare ever goes negative, it may be the end of the PC ecosystem as we know it.
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