Apple’s Double-Edged Sword: MacBook vs. iPad

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is rumored to be revealing a lighter, skinnier model of the current MacBook Air this year. A report from CPU Central, a blog covering computer processors, points out that Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) new range of chipsets and Ivy Bridge processors to be launched in April also point to a new MacBook Pro.

The new Macs are said to resemble the MacBook Airs, lack an optical drive, and are expected to feature a retina display like that on the iPhone 4S and the new iPad. Sharp is expected to supply the displays. The new display technology might drive more consumers to make the switch to Mac.

By early summer, CPU Central conjectures Apple will release a new 15-inch MacBook Pro alongside a new 15-inch MacBook Air. Apple is also said to be thinking about merging the Air and Pro line-ups to simplify products for mainstream consumers.

Apple has turned its focus on the iPad in recent years, seemingly ignoring its notebook line-up. Shortly after introducing the MacBook Air, Apple did away with its mid-range MacBooks. Now consumers must choose from the Airs or the Pros — the former attracting users looking for a cheaper and lighter device, and the latter bringing in people interested in owning sheer power and speed.

The Pro is certainly more costly and is heavier than the Air, but the device is indisputably the more powerful device — it has a faster internal processor, handles major software updates with ease, and has more of a “brain” than the Air. The thinner Air looks deceptively fragile, but Apple asserts that it is the perfect travel companion. Given that the Air weighs in at around 2.5 pounds, carrying the device around is no problem. Whether consumers decide to choose lightness or graphics. or endurance over weight, or performance over price, the devices are both equally impressive.

Apple has not done much with its MacBook line-up recently, though, and with expectations of an inevitable “Post-PC” era looming over the market, the company has shifted its attention to mobile devices. But a MacBook with a retina display just might change public opinion of PCs and attract more users to the Mac. A new Mac would certainly be a devastating blow to PC makers like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).

Apple would do well to incorporate some of the more popular features of its mobile devices into its computers. The new iPad’s dictation feature, which translates speech into text, could help Apple distinguish itself from its competitors. Apple would also do well by increasing the battery power on its notebooks to make them more mobile. And a smaller lighter notebook with the capability of the MacBook Pro but the portability of the Air would also give Apple an advantage against competitors.

The most mobile laptops today often run on slower internal processors, which forces on-the-go consumers who need a powerful laptop to lug around the heavier MacBook Pro. The absence of a powerful, lightweight laptop may in part explain surging tablet sales, as more consumers may be opting for a stay-at-home computer and simply purchasing tablets to meet their computing needs when they’re out and about. While a MacBook that incorporates the best of both worlds might cannibalize some iPad sales, it might also help Apple win a larger share of the PC market.

To contact the reporter on this story: Diallah Haidar at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com