Yesterday at the Brooklyn Apple event, Apple attempted to answer many questions and clear things up with regard to their lucrative laptop lineup. The problem is the strategy may have backfired. Instead of answering lingering questions and making things much clearer, Apple left us more confused than we were before. Engadget puts it more succinctly – “Apple’s laptop line is more of a mess than ever.”
“Imagine that you’ve got $1,300 and you’d like to buy a new Apple laptop. Which one do you choose? The $1,299 MacBook, the new $1,199 MacBook Air or the cheapest MacBook Pro, which also retails for $1,299. If you really want TouchID then you’ll opt for the Air, but if you’re looking for the ‘best’ then the Pro is the only answer. Not that you’d understand that from the price list, thanks to Apple’s crushing inability to properly differentiate its products.”
Part of that crushing inability to differentiate is Tim Cook’s inability to discontinue a product that is past its prime. One of the hallmarks of the Steve Jobs era is his sheer brutality when it came to killing an Apple product, service, or feature that was in the way of progress. Cook, on the other hand, has demonstrated a pathological product paralysis when it comes to getting rid of products that are still making money.
A case in point is the MacBook Air. It is highly doubtful that Jobs envisioned the product lingering on life-support for so many years. This is not to say that Cook’s strategy is bad for the bottom line. But it is confusing for consumers.
The one thing industry watchers were sure of was that Apple would be replacing the MacBook Air with something new. That is not at all what happened. Instead, they introduced a new product they called the MacBook Air while keeping the old one on the price list. Instead of there being a new notebook for $999, there is an embarrassingly old one filling the slot.
When people come in to buy a MacBook Air, the salesperson will have no idea which one they will be referring to. Many people who are not in the know will inevitably make the mistake of getting something that doesn’t exactly fit their needs or expectations. They may not realize there are two entirely different computers called the MacBook Air.
If people are coming in for Apple’s thin n’ light, they will be equally confused. Do they go for the New Air for $1,199, or the smaller and less capable one for $100 more? You read that correctly. The smaller and less capable product is more expensive. And if it is just a matter of portability, it is not even that much smaller or lighter.
Whatever questions you had about Apple’s laptop line before yesterday, you likely have more, not fewer of them today.