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Apple's MacBook Pro price hikes bolster iPad Pro-as-PC argument

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 1, 2016
Add push into enterprise, where prices matter less, and increases make sense, say analysts

"When you put the new MacBooks, older MacBooks, and iPad Pros together, you get an interesting picture in terms of price and performance coverage," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, in an analysis posted to his blog.

Specifically, deleting the 11-in. MacBook Air raised the difference between the top iPad Pro and the lowest-priced clamshell laptop from $100 to $200. Apple's least-expensive traditional-style notebook is now the $999 13-in. MacBook Air. The change emphasizes the lower cost of the iPad Pro, even with a Smart Keyboard.

Want a computer from Apple? Then $999 is the entry point for something traditional. But below that are the tablets, keyboard-equipped or not, that Apple's argued are the PC for most consumers.

"iPad Pro is ... the ultimate replacement device for customers switching from PC notebooks," Apple CEO Tim Cook asserted in July. Apple's advertising also picked up the message, labeling the tablet a "computer" when paired with a keyboard.

Apple will also soon eliminate the previous price chart's "bunching" at $1,299, where both the 12-in. Retina MacBook and the 13-in. Retina MacBook Pro existed. (It's almost certain that Apple will not long retain the $1,299 13-in. MacBook Pro; the $1,499 non-Touch Bar model says as much, and so that bunching will vanish.)

Most importantly for its bottom line, Apple pushed the price line further to the right. Where base price once maxed out at $1,999, now it's $2,399.

Others had different explanations for the price hikes.

"Apple is relying more and more on enterprise purchases," said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticule Research. "They're clearly making a bigger push there, where there's room at higher margins."

"There's no denying that these products are premium, but they extend down into price points that many people will be able to reach, while providing really top-notch products for those that can afford or justify them," added Dawson, talking of Apple's portable line. "If you focus on those newer devices, I think this is the most coherent and logical MacBook portfolio Apple has had for years."


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