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KGI: Apple to Launch Cheaper MacBook Air in 2Q 2018


KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has issued a new research report encouraging investors to keep their eyes on three products for 2018: the rumored 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, AirPods, and a “more affordable MacBook Air.” The first two in that list have been widely discussed in recent weeks and months, but this is the first we’ve heard about an update to the MacBook Air.

We expect Apple (US) to roll out the new MacBook Air with a lower price tag in 2Q18. We forecast total shipments of MacBook models will grow 10-15% YoY in 2018 (vs. 0-5% YoY decline for the NB industry), up from 15.5-16mn units in 2017. While Quanta, Radiant, Catcher and SZS are likely to benefit from strong shipments momentum, SZS also stands to benefit from increased market share and a higher ASP.

Kuo doesn’t offer any details on what to expect in an updated MacBook Air beyond a lower price tag, but the current models are certainly outdated as they haven’t had any substantial updates in three years. Since that time, Apple has cut back on available models including a complete discontinuation of the 11-inch model. The only recent upgrade to the 13-inch model has been a bump to the base processor option last June, but it’s still a Broadwell chip from the 2014–15 timeframe.

Aside from obvious internal upgrades like processors and graphics, another area that could see improvement is the display, as the MacBook Air currently offers a 1440 x 900 non-Retina display. We’ll likely also see some USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 upgrades and perhaps an overall redesign given the age of the current design.

Kuo’s claim of a second-quarter introduction points to the April–June timeframe, which could mean an announcement at WWDC in June, and we’ll likely hear more rumors as the time gets closer.

In a separate report, Kuo predicts that AirPods and the rumored high-end over-ear headphones are the future of Apple’s artificial intelligence and augmented reality ambitions. Kuo believes that compared to HomePod, Apple’s headphones offer more opportunities for reaching users quickly, personalization, and complementing rumored augmented reality glasses. Kuo is extremely optimistic about AirPods demand going forward, but less enthusiastic about HomePod given “mediocre” demand so far.

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