Apple to retain, redesign plastic MacBook family

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Once rumored for extinction, Apple's entry-level polycarbonate MacBooks are on the verge of a refresh that will solidify them at the base of the Mac maker's notebook offerings for the foreseeable future, AppleInsider has learned.



People familiar with Cupertino-based company's plans say the 13-inch portables are presently undergoing an industrial design overhaul that will see them reemerge in the coming months with a slimmer, lighter enclosure and restructured internal architecture to boot.



It'll be the first time in more than three years that the plastic Mac notebooks will receive a visual tune-up. Introduced in May of 2006, the white and black systems replaced the PowerPC-based iBook and 12-inch PowerBook as part of Apple's transition to Intel processors and quickly became the best selling Mac of all time, according to statistics from NPD Group.



The MacBooks were also among the first Macs to adopt Apple's MagSafe power connector while pioneering several other features that would become staples of future Mac notebook designs, such as shrunken soft-touch keyboards, glossy displays, and a non-mechanical magnetic latches (see: Magnet madness to hit Intel iBook line - Feb 2006).



Earlier this spring, Apple restructured its notebook offerings by repositioning its aluminum unibody MacBooks as premium offerings under the MacBook Pro moniker, adding long-requested features such as FireWire and higher-quality displays. This left the company with just a single MacBook offering, a white polycarbonate model that retails for $999 but sticks out like a sore thumb when positioned alongside its peers.



Still, sales of the sub-$1000 system have remained surprisingly brisk amid the economic crunch, leaving management little choice but to allocate R&D expenses in its favor. As of press time, Apple's online store indicates that the white MacBook is outselling all other Macs with the exception of the iMac, while similar rankings from high-volume resellers like MacMall also consistently place it in the top 10 best selling Apple-related products overall, ahead of all desktop-based Macs.



While it's unclear how many models or configurations Apple will introduce as part the redesign, Ben Reitzes -- an analyst with Barclays Capital who's been following the Mac maker for years -- sees the company offering several, at various price points.



"We [...] believe the MacBook line needs to be revamped (there is only one MacBook available now, an old white model) and that we could see a lower priced line soon, positioned below the new MacBook Pro models," he said.



Reitzes' comments on price points echo expectations laid out by AppleInsider this past April in its report on more affordable Macs. More specifically, it's believed that Apple is well-positioned to begin offering a model at considerable discount to the $999 entry-level model that exists today, further narrowing the gap with its Windows-based competitors.



Introduced in May of 2006, the current MacBook design has about run its course.



Though details are few and far between, Apple is expected to achieve these markdowns through largely existing tactics, such as using lower-end components and previous-generation Core 2 Duo chips and architectures from Intel Corp. Battery life should receive a boost from cutting-edge technology that recently found its way into the company's other notebook offerings, while high-end legacy features like FireWire connectivity are likely to be sacrificed in the tradeoff.



This strategy more closely conforms to Apple's DNA than alternatives that were under consideration late last year. For instance, AppleInsider has heard from multiple sources that the company toyed with the prospect of throwing an Intel Atom processor into the existing white MacBook enclosure as interim solution aimed at delivering a low-cost Mac portable for those consumers eying a Mac but hit hard by the recession.



However, at least one person familiar with the matter claims the initiative was abandoned indefinitely earlier this year, around the time that management solidified the forthcoming Newton web tablet for a first quarter 2010 roll-out and instituted a significant restructuring of the Apple TV development team.



Regardless of how the pieces fell into place, AppleInsider believes the bigger story is how Apple, once discounted for its role as a niche player in the market for premium computing products, is rapidly adjusting to having been broadsided by the sudden economic downturn. In a matter of mere months, it's successfully applied the same fundamentals and expertise that made it king of the luxury computing market to the space reserved for those strapped for cash. And it's doing so with class.



An assessment of Apple's portable computing lineup for Q2CY10 based on information presently available to AppleInsider.



Come the second quarter of next year, the company -- whose repertoire three years ago lacked a compelling offering for under a grand -- will off a staggering array of portable solutions ranging from $99 to $999. This includes the $99 iPhone 3G, $199-$499 iPhone 3GS, a sub-$999 MacBook family, and a multi-touch tablet device wedged between the latter two when fully subsidized.



Apple's new line of low-end MacBooks could be viewed as the last piece to the puzzle in Apple's top-to-bottom line of product offerings, transitioning the company from a premium PC and phone manufacturer to one that offers truly competitive prices on products in both categories.



Considering chief executive Steve Jobs's comments just last year that Apple is incapable of making a $500 computer to compete with netbooks that wouldn't be a "piece of junk," such a move would complete a subtle but significant metamorphosis for the Silicon Valley heavyweight, positioning it as an electronics maker offering a compelling portfolio of feature-rich products at virtually every price point.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 125
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    every MBA 101 class says that once you reach some success you have to have products to protect the low end of your market because that is where your killer competition will come from. there is a long list of companies who thought they were safe at the high end of the market and are now gone.
  • Reply 2 of 125
    cu10cu10 Posts: 294member
    Plastic dents less and scratch-resistant IMHO.
  • Reply 3 of 125
    Quote:

    every MBA 101 class says that once you reach some success you have to have products to protect the low end of your market because that is where your killer competition will come from. there is a long list of companies who thought they were safe at the high end of the market and are now gone.



    Agreed.



    Fair play to Apple if this road map comes about.



    The Macbook needs a price range in the UK of £495-795.



    Wintel laptops are available from £395.



    It wasn't that long ago Apple offered a £695 iBook and an iMac for £695. I think they need to go lower than that this time.



    They don't have to be Dell cheap...but cheaper than currently. I'm glad the Macbook is being realigned. It's overdue after the alu Macbook mistep that saw it changed to a 'Macbook Pro' with the Firewire port people wanted...and a price cut.



    I hope we get a nice slender design. Plastic. Affordable. It's got to be cheaper than the current model by a good hundred pounds or so.



    Same with the desktop line. The mac mini and iMac are due reality checks.



    We'll see what the 'fall' brings...



    Lemon Bon Bon.
  • Reply 4 of 125
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,396member
    I have been trying to convince certain friends to switch for ages, their reason is that they do not require a high powered computer and as nice as the Apple machines are £700+ a price point that they are willing to switch for especially as they see it as a risk.



    Bring on the lower price points, I'll still stick with my Aluminium Macbook!
  • Reply 5 of 125
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by CU10 View Post


    Plastic dents less and scratch-resistant IMHO.



    I bought my first-gen MacBook in Summer '06 and it's been a great computer. However it does suffer from the chipping palmrest, hairline fractures around the speakers, etc. I will probably replace it with a high-end 13" MacBook Pro - my girlfriend has one and I love its casing! It feels SO much stronger than mine...
  • Reply 6 of 125
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by saarek View Post


    I have been trying to convince certain friends to switch for ages, their reason is that they do not require a high powered computer and as nice as the Apple machines are £700+ a price point that they are willing to switch for especially as they see it as a risk.



    Bring on the lower price points, I'll still stick with my Aluminium Macbook!



    I have an aluminum one too, for almost a year now...i wished it'd break so i could get a new one, doubt it will happen soon



    I've successfully converted 4 unhappy PC users to MAC and they'll never come back to hell. Still thank me for it.
  • Reply 7 of 125
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    if my desktop died today and i needed to buy a PC for my wife to sync her iphone to, i'd probably go for a dell. i can get a dell laptop that's about the size of a MBP with LED backlit screen, backlit keyboard, etc for like $700.



    if there was a macbook with a 15" screen for $700 i'd look at it. don't see the point in paying for Garage Band if i'll never use it.
  • Reply 8 of 125
    Good. Chop another $100 off the price, too.
  • Reply 9 of 125
    zoolookzoolook Posts: 657member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by saarek View Post


    I have been trying to convince certain friends to switch for ages, their reason is that they do not require a high powered computer and as nice as the Apple machines are £700+ a price point that they are willing to switch for especially as they see it as a risk.



    Bring on the lower price points, I'll still stick with my Aluminium Macbook!



    My 2006 Black MacBook is still going strong. I quite like the design.
  • Reply 10 of 125
    What does "portabe" mean?
  • Reply 11 of 125
    mpwmpw Posts: 156member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by CU10 View Post


    Plastic dents less and scratch-resistant IMHO.



    Dents and patina I'd happily live with over crumbling, cracking plastic.
  • Reply 12 of 125
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Regardless of how the pieces fell into place, AppleInsider believes the bigger story is how Apple, once discounted for its role as a niche player in the market for premium computing products, is rapidly adjusting to having been broadsided by the sudden economic downturn.



    Rapidly? You are kidding right? With the exception of the $99 iPhone 3G all of their products are still in the premium market. The economy has been in the tank for a year and this refresh won't see the light of day until sometime in 2010. And you call that rapid?
  • Reply 13 of 125
    I bought one of the first Intel white MacBooks, and I still use it, and it still works and looks great. Had a few problems with it along the way, but, AppleCare took care of them.



    I really hope this means Apple isn't going to abandon the white computers, because I really loved the white iMacs, which you can't get anymore (unless it's used).
  • Reply 14 of 125
    takeotakeo Posts: 440member
    Good call. I have a fancy brand new MBP for work and that aluminum looks real pretty until it gets the inevitable dents and scratches. I take good care of it and always carry it in it's case... but it's still managed to get one bad scratch and one REALLY nasty dent. Aluminum is soft as butter. I'm not sure I would even buy one for personal use. I would probably buy plastic. Much more rugged and thus better suited for the student or road warrior. I'm glad they're keeping it.
  • Reply 15 of 125
    galleygalley Posts: 971member
    Apple is replacing all cracked plamrests free-of-charge, even if it is out of warranty.
  • Reply 16 of 125
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    if my desktop died today and i needed to buy a PC for my wife to sync her iphone to, i'd probably go for a dell. i can get a dell laptop that's about the size of a MBP with LED backlit screen, backlit keyboard, etc for like $700.



    if there was a macbook with a 15" screen for $700 i'd look at it. don't see the point in paying for Garage Band if i'll never use it.



    ...your "free" time to tinker with the junk for the years to come;-)
  • Reply 17 of 125
    takeotakeo Posts: 440member
    p.s. If I did ever buy an aluminum for myself... I would look into a hard sided case or an EXTREMELY well padded case.
  • Reply 18 of 125
    mpwmpw Posts: 156member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galley View Post


    Apple is replacing all cracked plamrests free-of-charge, even if it is out of warranty.



    Really? where are you hearing this? cuase they made me pay for my 4th once it was out of warranty.
  • Reply 19 of 125
    why not make the tablet the new macbook?
  • Reply 20 of 125
    irelandireland Posts: 17,785member
    I'll reiterate, the new Tablet will replace MacBook.
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