updated 01:20 pm EDT, Mon June 13, 2011
New models could dominate MacBook sales
Sales of updated MacBook Airs could go as high as 1.5 million per quarter, estimates Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore. The analyst suggests that units will be driven not only by a hardware refresh, but by the launch of Mac OS X Lion in July. At the 1.5 million threshold the Air could account for about 50 percent of Apple's notebook sales.
A MacBook Air refresh could happen as soon as this Wednesday, although Whitmore's supply chain sources point to a July launch. The update should see Airs switch to Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, primarily in the form of ultra-low voltage Core i5 and i7 processors. Systems should also implement Thunderbolt, a 10Gbps port standard developed by Intel in cooperation with Apple.
Whitmore is calling for 18 million in total Mac sales by the end of 2011, but says the number might be conservative. Addressing Lion, he expects Apple's operating margins to come in at about 90 percent for the OS, versus about 85 percent for previous upgrades. The rise is attributed to Apple's decision to sell upgrades solely through the Mac App Store, cutting out retail distribution expenses.
About half of Apple's Mac OS users, over 25 million, are forecast to switch to Lion in the next two or three quarters. Whitmore notes that typically, a new Mac OS release helps push Mac sales 30 percent higher than the year before. A special incentive to upgrade to Lion may be iCloud, of which the OS is described as a "key enabler."