Unless you’ve been stuck in the International Space Station for a year or two, you know about Apple’s ongoing battles with Samsung.
It seems that Samsung wanted to be chic and cool and loved by customers and profitable, too, so they blatantly copied Apple’s iPhone designs, got sued, and now owe a billion dollars to our favorite Mac maker. I fear the same kind of theivery is happening to Apple’s MacBook Air.
MacBook Air vs. Ultrabook
How long has the MacBook Air been around? Almost five years. Apple’s MacBook line is doing so well in the U.S. that it captured 27-percent of the notebook market.
That kind of success doesn’t go unnoticed among Apple’s many Windows PC competitors who would like to cash in on Apple’s cache and make the kind of profit margins Apple makes.
Chip giant Intel liked the MacBook Air so much they decided to promote an entirely new category of Mac knockoffs called Ultrabooks.
Apple’s MacBook line, heralded by the MacBook Air consists of an aluminum unibody, with a tapered design. Just as the iPhone heralds the natural progression of smart phone design (where it seems anybody can copy it) so the MacBook Air design is merely how all light and powerful notebooks will end up.
Thin. Light. Silver. Fast. Long battery life. Bright screen. Embedded keyboard. Unibody design. It’s as if Apple wrote the Ultrabook specifications, sans OS X.
Isn’t this just Déjà vu all over again?
The new line of cheaper Ultrabooks look and feel so much like an Apple MacBook Air that I fear Apple is simply becoming the technology gadget design shop, and research and development arm for their competitors.
The early Ultrabooks were underpowered, overpriced, still ran Windows and didn’t compare favorably to Apple’s famed Mac quality.
Today, some Ultrabooks have higher screen resolution, longer battery life, greater screen pixel density, more ports, and less weight. All wrapped up in a svelte package that looks and feels as if ASUS (and others) simply pasted their own logo over the Mac logo.
Even worse, some Ultrabooks are priced less than a MacBook Air. I read an in depth review and comparison of the Asus Zenbook Ultrabook (just rolls off the tongue, no?) and a MacBook Air on PC World.
The similarities are striking and chalked up to the laws of physics. When squeezing the size to tiny proportions all the engineering inside begins to look the same, yet Asus charges much less.
Why the difference in price between similar devices? Apparently, based on the Samsung case and Android, and even Windows, the only way to defeat Apple is to build products that look like Apple products and price them lower.
That may sell plenty of cheap MacBook Air knockoffs but will it make anyone besides Apple any money? Ultrabooks tend to be cheaper in build quality and they run Windows, while Apple differentiates the MacBook line with OS X (no longer Mac OS X).
Apple tends to lead the pack when it comes to beautiful industrial design (Macs, iPhone, iPad), but must fend off competitors who merely copy the design aesthetic and do so in the name of natural progression.
It seems as though this has always been the routine. Apple leads. Others follow. Will Apple run out of ways to differentiate and innovate new products? If so, what happens to the competition?