With the first wave of ultrabooks, PC makers have shown they can offer laptops similar to Apple's MacBook Air at lower prices. The ball is now in Apple's court, and according to DigiTimes, the Mac maker will soon cut prices in an effort to stay competitive.
DigiTimes says its sources expect Apple to introduce a new, more affordable MacBook Air family in the first quarter of next year—presumably to take advantage of Intel's 22-nm Ivy Bridge processors, which should be coming out right around then. The refreshed Air lineup will reportedly include a 15" model in addition to 13.3" and 11.6" offerings. That said, price cuts across the Air family are expected before the new hardware rolls out.
Now, there's no word on how deep the price cuts will be. DigiTimes points out that some e-tailers are selling MacBook Air laptops below Apple's list price as part of their holiday sales. (Best Buy, for instance, sells the base 11.6" Air for $939.99 instead of $999.99 right now.) That doesn't quite tell us how far Apple is prepared to go, of course. I doubt the company will match its most aggressive competitors and start offering the 13.3" Air for $900, but price cuts of one or two hundred bucks wouldn't be surprising.
Either way, I do hope Apple responds to the ultrabook phenomenon with some pricing tweaks. Even if the competition is catching up, I think MacBook Air laptops are still better designed and better finished, and I wouldn't have a problem paying a small premium for that. The premium needs to be small, though.