$799 MacBook Air may debut later this year

Apple might introduce a dramatically cheaper MacBook Air soon, if we're to believe the latest whispers from the Far East. DigiTimes quotes "sources from the upstream supply chain" who expect a $799 model to make its debut in the third quarter of 2012. If they're right, the machine would cost $200 less than the current 11.6" MacBook Air... and perhaps not a whole lot more than next-gen ultrabooks.

As we mentioned last week, Intel expects the next wave of ultrabooks (based on its Ivy Bridge CPUs and new composite materials) to be priced as low as $599-699. The chipmaker pointed to $699 as the "mainstream" figure and said some models might be as cheap as $599 in "selected regions," though it didn't say which regions those would be.

I hate to say it, but I find the rumor a little implausible. Apple isn't exactly known for pricing Macs very aggressively. iPads and iPhones, sure—the $99 iPhone 4 and $399 iPad 2 are good high-volume items—but not Macs. Just look at the Mac mini: it starts at $599 without a display, keyboard, or mouse... and with only 2GB of RAM.

If any MacBook Air is going to sell for $799, it'll almost certainly be an 11.6" model. The most affordable 13" Air carries a $1299 price tag right now, and I don't see a $500 price cut from one generation to the next in Apple's future. Not if Mac sales continue to grow faster than the PC industry at large, as they have.

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