Apple's rumored 'low-cost' MacBook would be more worrying for Microsoft than Google

Apple MacBook Air M2
(Image credit: iMore)

As reported by our pals over at iMore, there's a rumor afoot that Apple will finally embrace lower-cost laptops. Not just in the sense of keeping around older models and slashing the price, either. 

The rumor claims that Apple will make an all-new MacBook with an equally new, more wallet-friendly price. Its target? The massive education market. It's a sector where Google has an enormous foothold with its Chromebooks. 

But here's the thing: I don't think it's Chromebooks that would start to suffer in sales if such a laptop emerges. Unless Apple only sells this cheaper MacBook to education customers, the cheaper mid-tier Windows laptop market could be the one to feel a pinch.

Brand appeal at a friendlier price

MacBooks are desirable, but expensive (Image credit: Future)

Apple's brand appeal is undeniable. While there are plenty of long-time Mac users, plenty out there are attracted only to the badge — the very same one from their phones and tablets. Apple's ecosystem is extremely strong, and if you've bought into one device, it's incredibly easy to buy into the rest. 

It's a bit of a meme, but how often do you go into a coffee shop and see countless people typing away on a Mac? Personally, I'm not convinced that everyone buying these things does it because they like macOS. 

The issue for a lot of would-be MacBook buyers is the price. The current cheapest MacBook Air is a whopping $999. That's a lot. If Apple takes an axe to that number and puts out something significantly more affordable, the competition will have more of a problem. 

Windows could suffer more than Chromebooks

Cheap Chromebooks are popular precisely because they're cheap. (Image credit: Android Central)

The report on this rumored cheaper MacBook states: 

"(Apple) is reportedly developing a low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebook models in the education sector that could be released as early as the second half of 2024."

That's all well and good, and Apple may indeed be targeting education primarily. But there's no chance that a MacBook will be as cheap as the most popular Chromebooks out there. Google Chromebooks that cost under $300 are plentiful, able to undercut even the iPad, as well as a heap of Windows laptops. 

Apple's idea of 'low cost' doesn't match with basically anyone else's. So, I don't think Google will be too worried. But Microsoft? Well, that's a little different. 

The cheapest Windows laptops usually aren't very good, Surface Go aside. Even the education-focused Surface Laptop SE never really gained much traction. But options start to look better in the mid-tier, around the $500-and-up space. Realistically, this is the segment that a new, cheaper MacBook would drop into. 

OS preferences aside, who wouldn't be interested in a MacBook? It'll run some form of Apple Silicon, which is undeniably impressive and leagues ahead of any Windows ARM-powered machine. I spent some time with an M1-powered Mac Mini in 2022, and if it ran something other than macOS, I'd still be using it. 

Interesting times ahead 

The Surface Go is still one of the most attractive budget Windows machines.  (Image credit: Future)

If this thing exists at all, it's unlikely we'll see anything before at least Q2 2024. And in laptop terms, that's an age away. There's plenty of opportunity for new portable Windows machines in that time, and we're expecting Intel's 14th Gen CPUs to come along soon. 

But a lower-priced MacBook could certainly spice things up. Unless it was exclusive to education buyers, it's hard to see how it wouldn't be a smash hit. The iPad just isn't a viable replacement for a proper laptop in many scenarios, no matter how hard Apple wants it to be. A cheaper MacBook could easily be a winner during the 2024 back-to-school season. 

There are interesting times ahead, for sure. With advancements from Intel and Qualcomm on the horizon for the Windows market to look forward to, we don't really know for sure what this rumored MacBook could be going up against. But I'm absolutely convinced it's more of a competitor and, as such, more of a worry for those making Windows laptops over Chromebooks. Google still has a value offering others can't really touch, and Apple has an enormous brand appeal. 

Windows may well be the dominant force, but it sounds like it could have a big new challenger in a year's time. 

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at

  • fjtorres5591
    A couple of points to highlight:

    1- Apple doesn't do cheap. Their whole business model is about aspirational marketting and if tbey were to do a "cheap" Mac they ould be eating into their own sales far more than any other ecosystem.

    2- Don't dis the low end market. Not everybody can afford a $500 computer. Many can't afford even a $300 system.

    In today's world, *personal* computers are a necessity to survive when even government services rely on online access. This is particularly true of working class folks with kids, especially those in underfunded school districts, to say nothing of folks outside first world megacities, which is the vast majority of our species. There is a reason why Amazon, for one, features a deep assortment $100 PC sticks, $200 miniPCs and yes, the $300 wintab and laptop you decried. Some are even from reputable vendors like ACER and ASUS. Or HP. (Been to a Walmart or equivalent lately?) Even Intel knows the low end *needs* support. Oh, and chromebooks aren't just for education just as the $50 android TV boxes and tablets aren't just for retrogaming and video pirates. For some people that is their only access to the digital world and even a $300 computer is a luxury. Apple? An unreasonable expense even if the mythical $500 MacBook materializes.

    I know WC has from time to time featured some low-end hardware review but it's been a while and you might benefit from actully sampling the world of stick PCs, miniPC desktops, and $300 tablets and laptops for folks whose needs are online access, free Office Suites, and remote learning (which isn't just for kids--don't forget the online universities).

    The low end matters to the users. And the vendors who meet their needs instead of trying to entice them to overspend on a brand.

    Submitted for your consideration: there's a whole series of stories witing to be covered. (hint!)

    That'll be US$0.03. (Sorry but inflation...)
  • pwgc
    I'm an all-in Windows guy, but as an experiment I tried a M2 Mac Mini. What I found that with Edge installed, and logged in with my Microsoft and 365 accounts, with Onedrive installed, and some tinkering with Finder to make it more Windows-similar, I could operate quite happily for the things I do. Apps like Photoshop will download to either OS if you have an Adobe account and your files are always in Onedrive on either platform. Going back to Windows was definitely like going home, but MacOS is now much more useable, thanks to Microsoft rather than to Apple.