Windows 8 is coming, and Microsoft isn't the only company hoping that its newest operating system is a hit with consumers.
Chip giant Intel is betting big on ultrabooks -- thin, lightweight laptops similar to the MacBook Air -- and is investing big bucks to ensure that a slew of them hit store shelves as soon as Windows 8 is released later this year. The good news for consumers on a budget: some of those ultrabooks could cost as little as $699 if manufacturers have their way.
Windows 8 contains some significant changes that could go over really well with consumers, or that could make Windows 8 a Windows Vista encore. And although some very interesting ultrabook designs have emerged, like ultrabook-tablet hybrids, there is no guarantee that ultrabooks will be the hot sellers Intel and manufacturers hope they'll be.
But even so, it appears that Apple may be concerned enough about the prospect of ultrabooks to prepare a response.
According to DigiTimes, Apple may launch a $799 MacBook Air in the third quarter of the year "according to sources from the upstream supply chain." If accurate, the timing almost certainly isn't coincidental as Windows 8 is expected to launch around the same time.
Few details are provided about the specs consumers might be able to get at the $799 price point. As DigiTimes notes, the cheapest MacBook Air is currently $999 and features an 11-inch screen and 64GB of storage. Therefore, it seems unlikely that a $799 MacBook Air would pack nearly the punch consumers will be able to get for the same price on a Windows 8 ultrabook.
But Apple arguably doesn't need to pack the same punch. The company's pricing strategy in the past few years (ensure that you have lower end models within the reach of aspirational consumers) has worked well despite the long-term risks, and it just might work here too. If Apple can offer a MacBook Air -- the first 'ultrabook' -- for $799, you can be sure at least some consumers won't care as much about what's under the hood.