MacBook Air for $799 in the Works: Report

Apple may be prepping a lower-priced version of its ultrathin MacBook Air notebooks, according to a DigiTimes report.

In an effort to market the pricey, though sublime, MacBook Air notebook to a wider audience, Apple is working on a $799 version of the computer, according to a report in the Taiwanese tech publication DigiTimes. Quoting unnamed €œsources from the upstream supply chain,€ the article said Apple is considering offering the $799 MacBook Air in the third quarter of 2012, possibly in response to the upcoming generation of Intel-branded Ultrabook notebooks.

Intel has poured an enormous amount of money into the research, development and promotion of the Ultrabook platform and a related application store. Much of the success of the next generation of these notebooks could be tied to the success of Microsoft€™s Windows 8 operating system, which is highly tuned to run on Ultrabooks. "Although Acer has recently reduced its Ultrabook shipment target, Intel continues to aggressively push Ultrabooks and is aiming to have the devices priced at $699 in the second half of the year," the report noted. "However, if Intel is unable to bring down ASPs [average selling prices] to its goal, the price gap between Ultrabooks and the $799 MacBook Air may further postpone the time Ultrabooks become standardized," the sources explained.

Apple€™s current line of MacBook Air computers includes two models: an 11-inch notebook that starts at $999 and a 13-inch model that starts at $1,299. A top-of-the-line 13-inch Air, which includes a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage, comes in at $1,699€”a good $700 more than the average cost of an Ultrabook.

As a new MacBook Air might hit the market, another MacBook could be headed out the door, according to a recent research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who predicted slow sales would doom the 17-inch MacBook Pro, the largest (and most expensive) member of the MacBook Pro family.

Apple€™s experiments with price points and device sizes might not be limited to MacBooks and iPods, another widely reported rumor suggests: An Apple tablet with a screen size closer to 7 inches is in the works, according to unnamed sources in Taiwan and China. Some analysts and news reports have suggested a smaller iPad with a price point in the area of $300 could deliver a fatal blow to Google Android tablets and any upcoming Microsoft Windows 8 tablets.

A recent survey by Pricegrabber suggests that whether or not Apple actually releases an iPad Mini, consumers are ready to purchase one. The survey found that more than half (52 percent) of respondents would consider purchasing an iPad Mini for approximately $250 to $300, with a lower price point and smaller device size being the top considerations. A high-resolution Retina display, 3G connectivity and an ultrathin body were among the most-hoped-for features on the iPad Mini.