At Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) "Spring Forward" event, the company launched a brand new MacBook. This is a very light, very thin, fanless device. I'd even argue that it's probably the most aesthetically pleasing notebook available on the market today. In order to achieve these aesthetics, though, the company is using Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) low-power Core M processor.
Apple also announced that it would update the existing MacBook Air models to new fifth generation Core i5/i7 processors. These processors should offer more performance than the Core M chips inside of the new MacBook.
That means that Apple's cheaper MacBook Air systems featuring the fifth generation Core i5/i7 chips should offer more performance than the newer, more expensive MacBook computers. Of course, performance isn't the only factor that contributes to the value of a machine, but it's very interesting to see that Apple is prioritizing form over performance with the new MacBook.
There's nothing wrong with excellent form
The new MacBook actually brings a lot of system-level improvements over the prior MacBook Air models. The display is a high-resolution Retina display, and it is likely a higher quality IPS display, so the visual experience of the new MacBook should be far ahead of the updated MacBook Airs.
Additionally, the fanless design means that the machine should be silent even under heavy usage. This comes at the expense of performance, but I'd imagine that for typical consumer use cases, the Core M should be fine. That said, given some of the performance issues early Windows-based Core M systems suffered from, I'm very interested in what full reviews of the new MacBook have to say with respect to performance.
The system also includes what seems to be an innovative trackpad that includes the "Force Touch" feature found in the Apple Watch. Apple also touted a brand new keyboard design. Full, independent reviews should tell the tale on what kind of user experience improvements these features bring, but Apple's track record is pretty good in this respect.
Form is easier to sell than speeds and feeds
Interestingly enough, even though this new MacBook is slower than its Air counterparts, I'd imagine that the new MacBook will be more attractive to those who can afford them. Even with what is likely to be lower system performance than what either MacBook Air model provides, the new MacBook seems to bring enough in the way of system-level features as well as aesthetics to justify premium prices.
More pain ahead for iPad?
Apple's iPad sales have been under pressure, but its Mac sales have been on the rise for several quarters. However, it's worth pointing out that Apple sold nearly four times as many iPads than Macs last quarter. I suspect that with this new MacBook, the choice between a high-end iPad, and a new MacBook becomes even tougher, and that could possibly weigh further in favor of the Mac rather than the iPad.
That's not necessarily bad for Apple as long as its combined iPad and Mac sales trend upward, driving revenue growth for the company. I'm not saying that the MacBook can be used as a complete replacement for the iPad or vice-versa. However, I'd bet that, for most customers, having just bought a new, $1,300 MacBook is going to discourage a new iPad purchase in that same year. The reverse also seems intuitively true.