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Tuesday
Sep112018

Has Apple finally fixed the Macbook?

While Apple’s never-ending success with the iPhone is documented until the end of time, its MacBooks have quietly been having a bad few years. Sure, there was an upgrade in 2016, but the “upgrade” mostly consisted of USB-Cing everything, adding a dubiously useful Touch Bar, and making everything thinner. The MacBook Air is further past its prime than a Betamax recorder, and the 12-inch MacBook has regressed to being a glorified, very expensive netbook.

But it seems like help is very much at hand. We’ve been hearing murmers about a revamped MacBook Air for months, but a new round of details from some of Apple’s top insiders give me hope that at long last, Apple might’ve fixed the cheap MacBook.

Two years ago, back when we thought the lack of MacBook Air updates was just neglect and not part of a cruel plan to make me buy a MacBook Pro, I wrote about what Apple would have to do to update the MacBook Air. It’s not a complicated wishlist:

I think the solution is deceptively simple: just update the Macbook Air to be the laptop it should be. Kill the 11-inch version, because that’s now the Retina Macbook. Shrink the bezel, update the screen, perhaps add an option for a discrete graphics chip (hey, Microsoft fit one in the Surface Book!), and most crucially put the price at $1,200 or similar.

With the exception of the price (good news on that in a moment), it seems like Apple might actually be doing exactly that. Here’s a final report from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman with what to look forward to at this week’s Apple event, and wouldn’t you know, a new MacBook makes an appearance:

New MacBook: The company is preparing a new lower-cost laptop with a 13-inch Retina display to succeed the MacBook Air. Geared toward consumers and schools, the laptop may help Apple re-gain lost market share in the PC world.

Then there’s a report from Ming-Chi Kuo, a legendary Apple analyst with a stellar track record for predictions. He also says we’re getting a new cheap MacBook Air, possibly even with Touch ID but no Touch Bar. That’s a near-perfect solution: keep the utility of Touch ID without requiring the expensive Touch Bar, which would drive up the MacBook Air’s cost.

Fundamentally, there’s not all that much Apple has to do in order to make the MacBook Air a killer device once again. Try as they might, Windows laptop makers still haven’t made a laptop that hit as many home runs as the original MacBook Air, and while Chromebooks are excellent, they still have some deal-breaking flaws for some people. Add in Apple’s advantage with making macOS and iOS intertwined, and you’ve got a recipe for sure-fire success. Unless, of course, you do something stupid like charge it off a Lightning connector.

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