Apple is reportedly working on a MacBook with a price low enough to compete with Chromebooks in the education market.
If true, then the company may well be intending to follow the same strategy for macOS notebooks that it does for the iPhone SE and Apple Watch SE.
MacBook vs. Chromebook
Decades ago, Apple dominated the education market. As recently as 2001, the success of the iMac put twice as many Apple computers in schools as runner-up Dell Computer.
But starting in 2011, the Chromebook became a competitor Apple couldn’t beat. Thanks primarily to very low price tags, ChromeOS is now a teacher’s pet in the K-12 classroom. But that might change.
“Apple is reportedly developing a low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebook models in the education sector that could be released as early as the second half of 2024,” reported Digitimes on Tuesday.
A MacBook SE in the works?
The idea of a budget MacBook might come as a surprise to some people. Apple’s current notebook strategy is top-quality products at premium prices.
The most affordable MacBook Air starts at $999. By comparison, Chromebooks regularly list for $200 or $300, and many eventually go on sale for well below that. A MacBook would need to drop in price at least 50% to come close to competing on cost.
That’s not impossible. A look at a couple of Apple’s other product lines shows that making a lower-cost notebook isn’t truly out of character.
While the premium iPhone Pro models that sell for $999 and up get most of the attention, the humble iPhone SE goes for as little as $429. And although the Apple Watch Ultra costs a whopping $799, the Apple Watch SE starts at $249. With that in mind, a MacBook SE at $500 or maybe even less starts to seem more possible.
Apple’s SE products: Old designs with souped-up chips
The secret of the current SE products rests in basing their designs on older Apple products, but including modest updates. Theoretically, a MacBook SE released in 2024 could use the M1 processor that debuted in 2020. Using the chassis design from a previous laptop could cut production costs, too.
Apple uses top-quality displays in its current macOS notebooks, but an SE could use a cheaper one, maybe 12 inches in size. And there’d be no need to add cool extras like Touch ID. A fairly minimal amount of RAM and storage could also lower the laptop’s price.
The resulting MacBook SE likely still would cost more than a typical ChromeOS notebook, but it would also be a higher-quality product. One that would last for years in a classroom and not suffer from problems resulting from poor manufacturing. That can’t be said about many of the extremely low-cost Chromebooks that schools currently rely upon.