Apple Confirms New MacBook Air Special Offer

Updated March 17: article originally posted March 16.

If you thought Apple was finished disrupting the laptop market with the launch of the M3 MacBook Air, think again.

With the recent launch of the M3-powered MacBook Air, Apple was able to push the M2-powered Air down into the traditional $999 entry-level spot. That meant the M1 MacBook Air, which had occupied that spot since its launch in 2020, was put out to pasture.

At least, that’s what we thought. Apple has not stopped manufacturing the M1 MacBook Air, and consumers wanting a new M1 MacBook Air have an unexpected option.

American retailer Walmart is working with Apple and selling the M1-powered MacBook Air for $699.

Update: Sunday March 17: Lance Ulanoff has dug into the offer, specifically the specification of the M1 MacBook Air that is being sold. As you may have surmised, this is the lowest specification of MacBook Air possible. It’s the first Apple Silicon Mac chip, the M1. It comes with just 8 GB of RAM, and a limited 256 GB of storage. Those are low numbers, even by macOS standards.

Yet for a $699 laptop, Ulanoff argues there is still a lot of value to be found here:

“…its 3.5 GHz system, ability to run virtually all Intel-supported apps, handle almost any task you throw at it (including editing multiple 4K video streams at once), 15-hour battery life (20 hours if you only watch video), and 2.8 lb weight make this a formidable competitor for laptops costing at least twice as much. Even with just 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.”

Of course, another important feature to consider is the audience it will engage. Walmart offers a way into the Apple ecosystem that would previously be out of reach of laptop buyers. I’m sure Apple will welcome them into its velvet-lined garden of online services.

This will be the first time Walmart has sold any Mac hardware directly to customers. It’s also one of the rare occasions when a new Apple product is on sale somewhere other than Apple. These aren’t returns, an exercise with excess inventory, or refurbished laptops put back on sale. While Apple does have the M1 MacBook Air in its refurbished store, it’s priced at $749, which is an attractive discount compared to the M2 MacBook Air, but Walmart is undercutting even that low price.

It’s a fascinating branding exercise. Apple has studiously kept the visible entry-level price for the MacBook Air at $999 throughout the Apple Silicon period of the macOS laptop—it was possible to pick up a $100 educational discount on some models, but you’d be hard-pressed to find this listed on the website. With the Walmart partnership, it can offer a powerful ARM-based laptop—albeit a three-year-old laptop— at an incredible price considering the performance potential without any major disruption to Apple’s flavour of luxury.

That it could take sales away from both Windows PC and Chrome OS laptops is a nice bonus for Tim Cook and his team

The laptops will be initially available through Walmart.com before going on retail sale at select locations. If you can put up with the quirks of macOS and are happy to be brought into Apple’s private ecosystem, it’s probably the best-performing laptop at $699.

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