Apple is working on a low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebooks

Sep 6, 2023

A report claims that Apple is developing an affordable MacBook series. These low-cost machines will compete with Chromebooks.

MacRumors quotes a report by DigiTimes (paywalled) which says that Apple could release its low-cost MacBook series in 2024. The exact launch time could be a mystery, but given the lack of information and production activity at its suppliers, these devices may not be available in the first half of the next year.

Chromebooks are primarily seen as devices that are popular in the education market, i.e. students. DigiTimes Research mentions that 30.4 million Chromebooks were sold in 2020, and it rose to 33.5 million in 2021. In comparison, only 13.9 million units were sold in 2019. The huge surge in sales in the following years were attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic era, as students had to study from home. The demand for Chromebooks and computers, in general, have slowed after the lockdowns, but there is no denying that the fact that the devices are more popular now than they were before the pandemic.

Apple iPads are also quite popular among students, though Chromebooks offer better value, with their keyboard. The software experience is also superior, since most Chromebooks can handle desktop apps. This is much better than using iPadOS, and its crippled app ecosystem. A low-cost MacBook would be even better, providing this is not just a rumor, of course.

Apple wants to launch a low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebooks

But Apple's definition of low-cost could be the issue here. iPad prices start at $329 for the previous gen model (9th gen), while the 10th gen model retails for $449. Those are tablets with Apple's Bionic series chipsets. The M1 iPad Air prices are higher, starting at $599 for the iPad Air 5th gen, while the iPad Pro 6th-gen costs a whopping $1099.

In comparison, the most affordable MacBook, which is the MacBook Air M1, costs $999. Most Chromebook models carry a price tag in the range of $200 to $300. So, where exactly could a low-cost MacBook series fit in order to compete with budget-friendly laptops?

It is possible that Apple could use an old processor such as the Apple M1 Silicon to power its Chromebook. Other areas where it could step around the costs would be to reuse the display and chassis design from its cheapest iPads. It wouldn't be unnatural to expect it to have lower storage options such as 64 GB, fewer ports (single USB-C), etc. It could be tricky, considering the device needs to have a physical keyboard. The price tag could still be a problem, I for one, don't think Apple would actually offer a MacBook for anything lower than $500 or $600.

The report by DigiTimes mentions that Apple's low-cost MacBooks would still have a metal casing. These materials however will be different compared to the other models, in other words they would have cheaper materials. This would also help the Cupertino company set the devices apart from its premium devices, aka the MacBook Air and Pro lineup, which are made of Aluminium.

I've been advocating the use of macOS on iPads for a while now, so I'm pleasantly surprised by the idea of a low-cost MacBook. This might drive Mac sales considerably, and also help attract new users from Windows and Linux to try macOS without breaking the bank.

Apple is working on low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebooks
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Apple is working on low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebooks
Apple could launch a budget-friendly MacBook series next year.
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