Digitimes today says Apple is planning a $799 MacBook Air for Q3 based on “sources from the upstream supply chain.”
Clearly, no one in Apple’s Asian supply chain knows Cupertino’s pricing strategies. Digitimes is— at best—working off Apple, perhaps building a spec-reduced model. From the context, it seems that it is making the assumption based on falling prices of surrounding Ultrabooks, which we know is a mistake.
Nevertheless, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt:
How does Apple reduce prices on products? Does it build reduced functionality machines? Not usually.
Apple currently offers MacBook Airs for $999, in both the base model 11.6 configuration and the 13.3-inch “education configuration,” which is basically the 11.6-inch base model with a bigger screen. However, I do not think this is what Apple will do if it wants to reduce the price (which is not a given by any means).
If Apple does anything, I think it will bring a little of the iOS strategy “Back to the Mac,” perhaps offering a current, very capable base model Core i5 11.6-inch for a reduced price. Currently, Apple offers that model refurbished for $849. You can sometimes find the previous Core-2 Duo/Nvidia model for $699 on the Apple refurb store, as well. Apple refurbs are indistinguishable from new and carry a one-year AppleCare just like new machines.
On the iOS side, the refurb prices are usually close to the prices that Apple eventually offers older products when new models are released. For instance: the iPad 2 refurb was priced at $429 before the new iPad released; and, the new iPad 2 dropped to $399. So, using this as a yardstick, Apple could theoretically drop the price of the current Air to around $799.
But these options already accomplish what Digitimes says Apple needs to do for addressing the lower priced competition (and since when has Apple reacted to pricing competition directly?). So, for the record, we do not think Apple will release an out-of-phase, undercut MacBook Air in Q3. If anything, Apple will keep its current base model around longer at a reduced price.