New MacBook Air design could be a double smart move

A rumor of a new MacBook Air design seems to see the biggest shake-up in the appearance of Apple’s cutest notebook since its launch in 2008.

If the reports are true, it seems to me like a double smart move from Apple: a new look that will appeal to many and encourage them to update, while actively discouraging others and effectively pushing them to buy a MacBook Pro even if they do not need the power …

Apple’s separation of laptops for businesses and consumers

The early Apple laptops were expensive and were mostly aimed at business users and professional users. This started in 1989 with the Macintosh Portable (though “luggable” would have been a more accurate term) before we got the PowerBook series. The first of these was the PowerBook 100 in 1991, and the last of them the PowerBook G4 (aluminum), sold between 2001 and 2006.

The first Apple laptop specifically targeted at consumers was the iBook, launched in 1999 as the iBook G3. The design was clearly inspired by the iMac G3, and despite looking quite toy-like now, it turned a laptop into a fashionable element.

Seen here with the PowerBook G3 aimed at professional users, it could not be clearer that the two machines were aimed at completely different markets:

Apple briefly revived the regular MacBook name for a sweet (and premium price) 12 inch modelbut most since then it has been MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

Today’s design position

The wedge-shaped design was always the main design difference between Air and Pro, but with the laptops open, seen from the front or rear, there is not much to distinguish between them. In recent iterations, the Air is marked under the screen, while the Pro is not, but both have the same aluminum housing and black frames.

There is not much visual differentiation between the two machines for the casual observer. It’s great if you want a professional-looking machine without paying for professional-level performance you do not need, but not necessarily quite so good for Apple’s bottom line. The MacBook Air has always been the standard Mac, and a rumored 15-inch model could make that case even for those who like larger screens for everyday tasks.

Additionally, apart from some color options, there has not been much to distinguish between the different generations of MacBook Air. Those interested in looking cool in their local coffee shop can do so with a beautiful old model.

Potential effect of a new MacBook Air design

We expect a major design change in the upcoming models: They are said to come in a range of colors that reflect the latest iMacs. This is expected to include white frames instead of black.

This could make one lot to persuade existing MacBook Air owners to upgrade. For the first time since Air was launched, they can get one complete new look. Not just medium gray or gold, but some brand new pastel shades.

Many will upgrade because they love one of the new colors, while the cool kids will do so to see that they use the latest model rather than an older one.

Between the amazing battery life of M1 (and M2) chips, and the new design, the new machines will fly off the shelves.

But there’s one more factor that I think could also boost Apple’s bottom line: the white frames.

Many do not care. White or black, it’s the same for them. But there is a significant minority of people who do not care, either because they find white frames distracting, or simply because they do not like the aesthetics. Some of these people will be willing to pay the premium for a base model MacBook Pro even if they do not need the extra power. More money in Apple’s coffers.

There is a potential additional factor: ordinary business users. The Air may give them all the power they need to run their spreadsheets and display their PowerPoint presentations, but they may be reluctant to attend a customer meeting with a green laptop. They may be willing to use the extra to have a more muted-looking MacBook Pro. However, the iMac precedent suggests that they will have the option to purchase a silver model that looks standard.

While most reports have suggested that we’ll have to wait until next year to figure out Apple’s plans, Mark Gurman has suggested we see the new MacBook Air launch at WWDC in June.

What is your view? If you have an existing MacBook Air, do you plan to upgrade when the new design is available? And are you one of those people who would buy a Pro over an Air just for the black frames? Please tell us in the comments.

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