Rumor mill: Low-cost products are something you don't usually associate with Apple. However, according to a new rumor, the Cupertino company could release a new line of comparatively cheap MacBooks next year that can compete against Chromebooks in the education sector.
The rumor – emphasis on that word – comes from Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, which cites industry sources. It writes that the low-cost MacBooks could be released as early as the second half of 2024.
The new MacBook product line will reportedly have a similar-looking metal outer casing as the Air and Pro laptops, but it will be made of different (i.e., cheaper) materials – current MacBooks use aluminum alloy - and the cost of the mechanical components will be lower. DigiTimes doesn't reveal any potential specs or price points of the new MacBook series.
The launch date of H2 2024 is based on the current lack of related activity at major Apple suppliers such as Foxconn and Quanta Computer, meaning a launch in the first half of next year is unlikely to happen.
As with many things, the pandemic boosted sales of Chromebooks, from just 13.9 million units in 2019 to 30.4 million in 2020 and 33.5 million in 2021. Sales have slowed since then, but they're still very popular among students and within education facilities.
It's possible that Apple could use its older silicon, such as the M1 SoC, in these education-focused MacBooks to keep the costs down. But it's still hard to imagine them being able to compete with Chromebooks on price alone, given what Apple's definition of low-cost might be. The majority of Chromebooks sell for between $200 and $300, whereas Apple's cheapest tablet, the base iPad, starts at $329, and that doesn't even come with a keyboard as standard. The cheapest MacBook on Apple's website, the MacBook Air 13 with the M1 chip, is $999.
If - and it's a big if - this rumor is true, Apple will no doubt position its new MacBooks as a superior alternative to Chromebooks to try and justify any extra expense.
If you're in the market for a Chromebook, make sure to check out our 'Best Of' feature.
Image credit: Hello by Taan Huyn