COMMENTARY – Sometimes, bigger is not always better.
The latest addition into the MacBook family of computers with the Air branding — a model featuring a display measuring 15.3″ — doesn’t exactly fall under the category of small and super-thin ultraportable laptops but, with an enclosure that (when closed) is only 11.5 mm in height, it’s still relatively thinner and lighter in comparison to its Windows-based counterparts with similarly-sized screens. According to Apple, the new MacBook Air is nearly 40% thinner and, because it only weighs 3.3 pounds, it’s half a pound lighter than a comparable PC laptop with a 15-inch screen.
At the start of the pre-recorded Apple Event on September 12 where the new iPhone and Apple Watch models were announced, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said that the reaction to the new MacBook Air has been fantastic (even sharing some accolades given by the media) but the chief executive officer did not divulge some of the dirty details about Apple’s newest Mac.
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All (Laptops) Great & Small
Last year, when rumors were circulating around the web that a bigger MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen was in the works, the logic behind Apple’s decision to go down that path wasn’t immediately clear to me.
When the original MacBook Air — a model featuring a display measuring 13.3″ — was announced a decade-and-a-half ago back in 2008? The Mac notebook computer that was unveiled by then Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, during the Macworld Conference & Expo that year would usher in a new era, that of small and super-thin ultraportable laptops.
While the original MacBook Air was the thinnest and lightest laptop on the market at the time of its release, when compared to other Mac notebook computers, the size of its screen was still as big as the one found on the original MacBook – a model featuring a display measuring 13.3″.
Two years later, in 2010, Apple updated the MacBook family of computers with the Air branding to include two options. In addition to a standard MacBook Air with a 13-inch screen, there was now an even thinner and lighter model featuring a display measuring 11.6″.
By releasing a smaller MacBook Air with an 11-inch screen, Apple pushed the envelope even further (so to speak) but, — as far as small and super-thin ultraportable laptops go — at least, it was a totally logical move on the company’s part.
However, Apple going in the opposite direction and releasing a bigger MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen does make you wonder: why was Apple thinking differently (cough) this time around?
Looking At The Bigger Picture
Sizing up the situation and shedding some light on why, exactly, Apple decided to go down the path that it did with the new MacBook Air is Jason Snell, the former lead editor of Macworld magazine. Writing in his “More Color” column for the publication, Snell says that the biggest product announcement at the company’s annual worldwide developers conference, WWDC, which was held earlier this year in June, wasn’t the Apple Vision Pro but Apple’s announcements regarding the Mac.
Although Snell mentions the three Macs that were announced during the event, the star of the show most definitely was not the new Mac Pro with Apple silicon inside nor was it the updated Mac Studio either but, rather, it was: the new MacBook Air.
According to Snell, Apple was losing sales to PC laptops with 15-inch screens. By releasing the new MacBook Air, Macs,, once again, have become relevant in that category.
“Apple is positively salivating about the prospect of entering a large 15-inch laptop market currently occupied by a lot of Windows PCs,” writes Snell.
Releasing a bigger MacBook Air with a 15-inch scree doesn’t just give Apple an edge against its Windows-based counterparts but also effectively gives consumers more options to choose from. As Snell points out, introducing a model featuring a display measuring 15.3″ means that Mac users — particularly, those in search of more viewable space on the displays of their laptops — no longer have to pay more ($800 to $1,300, respectively) for a MacBook Pro with either 14-inch or 16-inch screens.
“Want a bigger MacBook Air?” writes Snell. “Now you can finally get one, and it’s only an extra $200.”
All Just A Super-Sized Flop?
After initially labeling the new MacBook Air as, “the perfect MacBook for almost everyone”? Apple-centric news site, iMore, seemingly backtracked on its favorable review of Apple’s newest Mac, asking whether a model featuring a display measuring 15.3″ was… a super-sized flop.
Writing for Digital Trends, Alan Truly, a computing writer for the website, says that Apple may have overestimated the demand for a bigger MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen.
In July — only a month after the new MacBook Air was released — supply chain news publication, DigiTimes, reported that Apple had cut shipments in half (a report cited by both Truly as well as iMore). This was, reportedly, in response to sales of the latest addition to the MacBook family of computers with the Air branding falling short of the company’s expectations.
“Making customers choose between performance and screen size could play a role in slower sales of the new MacBook Air,” writes Truly.
As Truly points out, notably, for the price of a bigger MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen? Instead, one could get, alternatively, a MacBook Pro — a model featuring a display measuring 13.3″ — a Mac notebook computer that weighs much less and has even better performance to boot!
If Apple cutting shipments in half wasn’t already bad enough, last month, it was noted by Cult of Mac (in a “Daily Deal” post on the website) that the new MacBook Air was being sold at a huge discount: $1,099 (the same price as the entry-level version… a model featuring a display measuring 13.6″).
Related Reading: from the Mac Potpourri story archives – “Is Apple Going To Bring Back An Ultraportable Laptop To Its Mac Notebook Computer Lineup?” (August 2021)