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Apple kills the regular MacBook

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Apple today released its new line of MacBook Air laptops, along with OS X Lion, a new Mac mini and new displays that connect via the ultra-fast Thunderbolt port from Intel. Noticeably absent from Apple’s computer lineup, however, is the now-iconic white MacBook, which has officially been discontinued.

Observers noticed the absence of the MacBook from the online Apple Store, which now only lists the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro.

The death of the MacBook has been in the rumor pipeline for about three weeks. Late last month, Apple Insider reported that a number of Apple retailers, including Amazon, DataVision, MacConnections and J&R were all either sold out or nearly sold out of MacBook units.

At the $999 price point, the MacBook served as Apple’s “budget” laptop offering. That slot is now occupied by the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which comes with 64GB of flash storage, a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Sandybridge processor, 2GB of memory and an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU.

In addition to the $999 MacBook Air model, AppleĀ  also has an 11.6-inch version with double the flash storage for $1,199, as well as a 13.3-inch model with 1.7GHz Core i5 CPU, and 4GB memory, for $1,299 and a top-of-the-line 256GB model for $1,599.

It makes sense that Apple would do away with the MacBook in favor of the MacBook Air. The new Airs are approximately 2 to 2.5 times faster than last year’s models. They are also the first Apple computer to be built from the ground up to run OS X Lion, so the laptops are optimized for the latest Apple has to offer. Not to mention, the Air is far lighter, thinner and attractive than the poor ol’ plastic white MacBook.

Wise move, Apple. Wise move.