Is the MacBook Air an endangered species?

Earlier today, 9to5Mac reported that Apple’s iPad will be getting split-screen multitasking on iOS 8. This concept, along with the recent rollout of the new MacBook Air lineup and subsequent price drop has me wondering if Apple will phase out its ultralight entry-level laptop in the not-to-distant future.
The new multitasking feature will give users the ability to use two iPad apps simultaneously. This feature would be similar to Microsoft’s “snap” multitasking feature on its Surface tablets that allows users to intereact with multiple apps at the same time.
9to5Mac reports that the “snap” feature positions the Surface to be a laptop replacement. This begs the question: Could the same be true of the iPad?
In order for iPad users to operate two apps in split-screen mode, the new feature in iOS will have to allow apps to interact with one another, providing the ability to drag or otherwise move content from one app to another, be it a photo, video or other form of media. This would bring true “XPC” support to iOS, giving developers the ability to share content between apps.
9to5Mac reports that the iPad’s split-screen feature will be designed for the 9.7-inch iPad Air while the prospect of it appearing on the smaller-screened iPad mini is unclear. The feature would work only in landscape mode and would certainly be a key selling point in the 12-inch iPad Pro, a rumored device that could launch later this year or in 2015.
The release of updated MacBook Air models came with a $100 price drop and an even more dramatic effect: a sharp drop in the price of refurbished models. You can now get a previous-generation refurbished model at just $599 with a one-year warranty straight from Apple. If you choose to add AppleCare, you’d get the same three-year support from Apple you’d enjoy with a brand-new model. These refurbished MacBook Airs come with dual-core Intel Core i5 processors and storage capacities up to 256GB.
That’s a good deal. But here’s the strange twist in Apple’s pricing structure: You can now get a $599 refurbished MacBook Air for only $100 more than a 16GB iPad Air or $100 less than an iPad Air with the same 128GB storage capacity.
Suddenly, an iPad Air with split-screen functionality and a keyboard case looks like a MacBook Air-killer. It’s lighter and more portable, faster, has an enormous app ecosystem and excellent battery life, and features a much better Retina display.
I don’t see the MacBook Air fading away just yet, but if Apple begins to wait longer and longer between refreshes of the lineup, that’ll be the tell-tale sign that the MacBook Air will soon be no more.

Chris Cox owns and moderates the Apple iCommunity on Google+.


About Chris Cox

I love technology, but I could do without the tinkering. I'm a firm believer in technology that just works. If it's intuitive, that leads to greater adoption, which leads to more advances, and that benefits us all. That said, a little tinkering on the front end that helps you every day is worth the effort. I'm all for simple solutions that keep me -- and you -- from reinventing the wheel every day.