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No, Apple won’t launch a $99 MacBook for this simple reason

Earlier this week, DigiTimes reported (via MacRumors) that Apple was working on a bargain-basement MacBook in order to better compete with Chromebooks. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s an interesting theory — except it’s almost certainly baloney.

On the face of it, it seems believable. After all, Google is doing very well in the education market, cramming as many Chromebooks into classrooms as it physically can. Why wouldn’t Apple want to get a slice of the pie?

Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air on a desk, with macOS Sonoma running on its display.

Well, there are a few reasons. For one thing, Apple simply doesn’t need to compete with $99 Chromebooks. Mac sales have been surging ever since Apple silicon launched in late 2020, Apple is one of the largest and most profitable firms in the world, and it’s all been done with a laptop lineup that starts at $999 for its cheapest entry.

Why would Apple feel the need to change a thing? To get into the classroom? It’s already doing that with the iPad range. Just a few weeks ago, Apple announced a new education project to get students drawing and painting using iPads, and it regularly partners with schools to outfit classrooms with its tablets. If Apple is desperate to compete with Chromebooks, it certainly doesn’t look that way.

It’s just not Apple

A person typing on a MacBook Pro while sat on a wooden bench.
Bram Naus / Unsplash

I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment. Let’s assume that Apple is deeply concerned about its education efforts and wants to find a way to kick Chromebooks off their low-priced pedestal. It would still face a major hurdle, even if this was the case: a mega-cheap MacBook feels about as far away from Apple’s ethos as possible. It just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The reason is clear to anyone who’s ever gone into an Apple Store or held one of the company’s products. Apple is a premium brand, and its products are purposely pricey, desirable, and well-made. The company wants people to covet its devices. Releasing a cut-price laptop that looks like a forgotten holdover from a dreary going out of business sale runs directly counter to that.

Apple has spent many years working on this brand image, and it’s not about to throw all that away to compete with a device that CEO Tim Cook in all likelihood doesn’t care about. A MacBook that only costs a couple hundred dollars would destroy all that hard work for very little benefit.

As Apple pundit John Gruber pointed out just yesterday, Apple’s strategy is simple: “Don’t prioritize being first or being cheapest. Prioritize being the best.” Whether or not Apple always succeeds in making the best laptops can be debated, but the intention is clear. Tossing out a cheap laptop it doesn’t need to make is not the way to be best, and it never will be.

With that in mind, treat this rumor with a large helping of skepticism. Given what we know about Apple, it just makes too little sense.

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