Ultra-thin notebooks are shaking up the laptop and PC space, and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) has led the charge to bring these ultrabooks to the market. Remember, though, who fired the first real shot in the race: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), with its slender MacBook Air. All others are following in Apple's footsteps, and, if a new rumor is true, Cupertino is planning to remind everyone of that fact by introducing a MacBook Air for under $800, probably in the fall.

If the scuttlebutt is true, competitors in the ultrabook space will have reason to be nervous. Currently, laptops that fit the parameters of Intel's Ultrabook specifications range from Hewlett-Packard's (Nasdaq: HPQ) HP Folio 13 for $899 to Lenovo's IdeaPad for close to $1,200. Dell's (Nasdaq: DELL) offering, the XPS-13, has been doing very well, and its entry-level model is priced at just under $1,000. That's expensive, particularly when you consider that the MacBook Air starts at $999 for the 11.6-inch version.

The new generation of ultrabooks is on its way, however, and that appears to be what Apple would be targeting with its new MacBook Air offering. Although rumor has it that Intel is endeavoring to keep new Ultrabook prices to $699, the question remains whether that low price would be enough to give computer makers a leg up on the MacBook. For a lousy $100, does anyone really think that there would be a real competitive edge to a lower price?

Speculation didn't go so far as to include whether or not the MacBook Air, which hasn't been updated since last July, will be a new and improved version. In fact, opinion is leaning toward Apple possibly melding the two lines, and even phasing out the Pro, except for one or two models. If it will be a new version, then it seems to me that there will be no comparison to the competing products, though it would certainly be a banner day to have an updated MacBook Air come on the market for under $800.

Fool's take
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Apple introduce a MacBook Air just in time to stifle sales of its Intel-based competitors' products. I think that a fully upgraded product would be a stretch for the price point mentioned, however, and expect something more like the iPad 2 discounting after the new iPad's debut. Even last year's model would be superior to an updated HP Folio 13, for example -- a unit that currently gets praise for being a workhorse but loses points on looks and style, and is considered too bulky. Would a newer version be comparable to an older Air? I doubt it.

If Apple really pulls this off, I would expect much grinding and gnashing of teeth in the tech sector even before summer, as this rumor gains traction and prompts consumers to wait it out to see how this scenario plays out. Once again, Cupertino rattles the market without actually doing anything.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix owns no shares in the companies mentioned above.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple and writing covered calls on Dell. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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