Apple launched a completely refreshed line of MacBooks and MacBook Pros last week, to the by now predictable fanfare and guessing-game imbroglio in the blogosphere. I have written previously how this is a deliberate, well-designed Archetype Branding strategy on Apple’s part, using aspects of "The Enigma" archetype among other things.
The MacBooks’ launch did contain the familiar elements of Steve Jobs’ magician stagecraft, though there was a clear attempt to build up several other high-ranking Apple managers in the process, due to recent concerns and rumors regarding Jobs’ health.
But the biggest overall focus in this difficult economic environment seemed to be expected price-cuts and the overall pricing strategy. Specifically, whether the lowest-end MacBook would go below $1,000, or even down to $899.
While the latter hope didn’t materialize, the most entry level "old" MacBook (in white) was indeed lowered to $999, but not the new line of anodized aluminum housing, all-around-upgraded MacBooks. However, you shouldn’t underestimate what Apple has done here:
1) They have now "Air-ized" (after the aluminum housing of the ground-breaking MacBook Air) the entire MacBook/MacBook Pro line except for the close-out model "MacBook White". As Steve Jobs said, they should see some cost reductions from ramping up the novel unibody aluminum frame production in the next few quarters. So taking the entry-level Alu MacBook to $999 might happen sooner than some think.
2) While the cost for the new entry-level MacBooks for now has been kept at $1299, there is a lot of new technology that got pumped into it: iPod Touch multi-touch glass touchpad, led-backlit screen and longer battery life from the MacBook Air, a high-end graphics accelerator, etc. etc. So they’re establishing it as the "must-have-this-thing" item FIRST, in line with their branding as "The Creator/Innovator" archetype among other things, plus their high-end image.
3) The new MacBook line thereby becomes "aspirational", so that even if you can’t afford one right now, you still know you want one (if you were ever open to it at all). Then, when the prices get dropped further (see the iPhone price point development), everyone will think it’s a bargain by comparison.
But to do this you have to first credibly build it up at the higher price levels. I would NEVER expect Apple to forgo their brand equity and introduce brand new technology PLUS lower prices for that new technology at the same time.
With a consumer recession already going on or imminent, the 60+% of people who are truly affected by affordability aren’t Apple’s primary target market. AND they would be likely to delay purchase of ANYTHING right now regardless of price point (ask yourself if they all would buy the new aluminum MacBooks at $999 this instant – I doubt it).
Apple doesn’t need to be in the $400-700 notebook market for now, and if they want to be down the road, it is still advantageous for them to have established the higher price point value proposition. The price "anchor" this creates in the consumer’s mind is worth the somewhat reduced volume now. Then when you "drop in" the price cut at the point of maximum desirability (again, as was done with the iPhone), you are likely to create a feeding frenzy.