Will there be no MacBook Air in 2017?

Apple is in a much stronger position to finally call time on one of its most loved laptops


The 12-inch Apple MacBook. The MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since 2015.
The 12-inch Apple MacBook. The MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since 2015.

Over the past few years, it has been expected that Apple will discontinue the MacBook Air in favour of the MacBook, the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro. While it didn’t happen all these years, chances are we may have finally seen the last of the MacBook Air.

All this while the reports suggesting the demise of the Apple MacBook Air were greatly exaggerated.

The Air can be defined as one of the benchmark ultraportable laptops of our generation, and has been the inspiration for many Windows laptops that attempted to match (and even surpass) its slim form factor and match the performance. But rumours are again doing rounds that in 2017, Apple will not refresh the MacBook Air line-up, and finally call time on the laptop series. In the past couple of years, such a move may have been premature. But this year, Apple is in a much stronger position.

The latest report from IHS, a technology market research firm, suggests that Apple will produce 13.6 million laptops this year, compared to 16.2 million units in 2016—this is an overall reduction of 16%. With the very recent evolution of the MacBooks being received well, and the addition of the Touch Bar spawning a separate ecosystem of apps that can utilize the secondary touch display, it is unlikely that Apple will take their foot off the gas. This means, the 2.6 million less units may directly be attributed to the MacBook Air laptops, which will not be made anymore.

A few weeks ago, Matt Casebolt, one of the key designers of the original MacBook Air, departed from Apple and is now working as senior director of Engineering, Closures & Mechanisms at Tesla.

Also, the MacBook Pro line-up is much better positioned to replace the MacBook Air. The Pros are slimmer and lighter than ever before (23% thinner and about 200gm lighter than the previous generation), and offer the same 13.3-inch screen size, but with a much higher resolution, enhanced brightness and wider colour reproduction. Expect all these aspects to further evolve with the next update, and we are anyway getting quite close to the MacBook Air sort of slimness.

Then there is the 12-inch MacBook too, which is ideal for anyone who wants a compact laptop for travel.

How can anyone forget the iPad Pro? This is the device that signalled the end of the road for the MacBook Air, and it will perhaps be the most likely alternative too, for many users. The iPad Pro is available in two screen size options—12.9 inches and 9.7 inches—that are armed with their own keyboard dock attachments for the entire convertible computing experience. While we cannot compare the performance of MacBook Air and the iPad Pro, because both run different software platforms, the latter is one of the most powerful computing devices you can buy right now. And it’ll only become better with the next update.

Another way for Apple to tackle the gap that the potential omission of the MacBook Air will create is to reduce the prices of the MacBook and the MacBook Pro 13 (the variant without the Touch Bar). At present, the MacBook Air is priced from Rs80,000, while the MacBook is priced upwards of Rs1,12,900 and the new MacBook Pro 13 costs Rs1,29,900. Apple is also selling the previous generation of the MacBook Pro 13, which is priced at Rs1,06,900. This, along with the MacBook, is in prime position for potential price change, to fill the gap that the MacBook Air may create.

The MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since 2015, and many saw this coming, to be honest. However, it’ll be a challenge for Apple to ensure that existing MacBook Air users don’t shift to other brands, when it’s time to update to a newer machine comes.

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