According to DigiTimes, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) manufacturing partner, Quanta Computer, has reportedly "begun volume production of the new 12-inch MacBook Air." This, DigiTimes reports, means that Apple could launch the device during the first quarter of 2015.
Given that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) just launched its 15-watt Broadwell processors for thin-and-light notebooks, and given that Intel has stated that this will be "the fastest mobile transition" in the company's history, it only seems logical that the premier thin-and-light laptop vendor will transition to these chips as soon as possible.
At any rate, the DigiTimes report has some interesting nuggets of information pertaining to what Apple plans to do about its MacBook Air lineup once the new, 12-inch model launches.
12-inch model replaces the 11-inch; 13-inch remains
According to DigiTimes, the new MacBook Air is expected to come with a "12-inch Retina screen" and is "likely to replace the existing 11-inch MacBook Air." Additionally, the 13-inch model "will continue running," the report claims.
Fellow Fool Evan Niu recently proposed that Apple could cut the price of the current 11-inch model and position the new 12-inch model as the more premium model. It looks like Niu was spot on that Apple would keep one of the older models around as the "discount" version, but it seems that it will be the 13-inch model rather than the 11-inch one.
This, in my view, makes perfect sense.
Remember that new Dell laptop that was announced at CES?
The laptop that seems to have stolen the show at CES 2015 was the refreshed Dell XPS 13. This laptop is said to offer a 13-inch display in the footprint of a more portable 11-inch laptop. Apple may choose to do something very similar with its MacBook Air lineup; the new 12-inch Retina MacBook Air may be so compact so as to obviate the need for a dedicated 11-inch model and would serve as a "premium" option for users who want a 13-inch notebook.
The current 13-inch MacBook Air, which is a very mature design, should have a low enough cost structure to allow for Apple to reduce the price by $100 to occupy the $899 starting price point of the current 11-inch model.
Will this keep Mac momentum going?
Niu, whose excellent article I cited above, believes that introducing the redesigned 12-inch MacBook Air as well as lowering the price of the 11-inch MacBook Air would be a "powerful combination to keep up the momentum." Whether the 11-inch model gets pushed down to $799 or the 13-inch model gets pushed down to $899, I can't help but echo Niu's sentiment.
The big risk that I see to Apple's Mac business, however, is that later this year, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is slated to launch Windows 10. If Microsoft does a good job with this operating system, then there's the possibility that share at the $899-and-up price point in notebooks could shift back to the Windows PC ecosystem.
That being said, just making Windows "better" doesn't mean that consumers will prefer it to the increasingly popular Mac OS, which will also get better (from an arguably stronger base). It will be exciting to see how things play out over the next year or so, that's for sure.