Is right now really the moment for Apple to launch new laptops?
Next week I’ll be with Josh at Apple’s new laptop event in Cupertino, and I’ll be up front about it: I’m pretty stoked. I’ve been holding off on buying until the next major MacBook or Pro revision — which I thought would come in January at Macworld — but this is clearly it. (Granted, there’s no knowing how long it’ll be until the new laptops ship after next week’s announcements.)
Now look, laptops are a big deal. For most users, laptops more often than not represent one of the most expensive devices they own, TV aside — but unlike a TV, most people are apt to replacing their laptop every couple of years. And when it comes to product cycles for laptops, a couple of years is sometimes how long it can take to get one out the door: next week’s new machines probably got started shortly after the Air, likely in 2006 or even 2005. In other words, these machines got started well before we knew things would be headed as far south as they’ve gone.
So now that we’re neck deep in the worst financial crisis in decades, now that consumer spending is nosediving, now that hoarding is displacing buying, now that even high-flying VCs are getting nervous and battening down the hatches, I have to wonder: is this really the right moment for Apple to launch new laptops?
Probably not. Granted, there’s no turning back on a launch planned years ago, and people will always need computers (as long as the lights don’t go out, anyway). But the interesting thing is that Apple has an important new shot to make here: this is the most opportune possible moment for them to take on the booming netbook / lower-cost laptop market, a segment that will only balloon in size in the years to come as consumer spending continues to hemorrhage. The $2,000 pro market won’t go away entirely — but it certainly won’t be a growth area as larger numbers of buyers are starting to worry more about foreclosure and eviction than whether or not they can upsell for the ExpressCard slot and extra three inches of screen. Guess we’ll see next though; and hey, if nothing else, at least we can set all the doom and gloom aside for a few minutes while we geek out on Steve’s dog and pony show.