On October 14th, Apple is setting up to make a major announcement concerning its notebook line. The buzz is that both the MacBook and MacBook Pro will see the release of new models.
In the case of the Pro, the update will be relatively unspectacular: new casing, addition of a mini-DVI port and perhaps a larger battery. All solid, tantalizing improvements that are sure to make the high-end very happy, but not the earth-shattering "boom" moment.
That news may come from the MacBook. Rumors (read: the most reliable Apple news you can find outside of Steve Jobs' own mouth) suggest that the company may be gearing up to drop the price on the consumer notebook down to $800.
If that happens, the roar you hear from college campuses worldwide will be only slighty louder than the groans you hear from HP and Dell salespeople worldwide. With OS X still running smoothly and Parallels and Boot Camp all but erasing the "no software" argument, price point is the lone advantage PC vendors have over Apple in the market.
Quality (and maybe profit margins) has been what has kept Apple at a higher price point thus far. Steve has been on the record as saying more or less that most low-cost machines suck, and Apple doesn't do stuff that sucks. There are, however, ways that the company could bring down the cost.
Eliminating the optical drive as with the MacBook air would be one way to shave off the costs. Intel's updates to quad-core chips have made dual-core processors that much more affordable now, and their lower power consumption could allow for the same life with a cheaper battery. Those three things alone could get Apple close to that price point.
Of course a cheaper MacBook would be lighter on the features. Apple doesn't want you poo-pooing its more expensive models, but a notebook that has the features of today, with Apple providing the normal updates to the other MacBook lines could keep the current base buying the higher-priced MacBooks and expand the companies reach with the lower-end buyers that just want iTunes, Word and a browser.
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