Apple discontinues the $999 MacBook

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On Wednesday Apple marked the demise of the MacBook. No, not its entire line of laptops, which made up 70 percent of the Macs sold in the company’s just-completed third quarter. Getting the chop is the $999 white plastic MacBook, which has held down the low-cost end of Apple’s laptop line for years.

If you’re searching for a reason for the MacBook’s demise, look no further than the product line Apple also updated on Wednesday: the MacBook Air. In 2010, the 11-inch MacBook Air joined the MacBook at the low end of Apple’s laptop product line.

This new generation of MacBook Airs bumps off the MacBook entirely. Rather than add Thunderbolt and Intel Core i5 processors to the MacBook, that offering is being sent to the laptop graveyard. As of now, if you want to buy the lowest-price Mac laptop available, it will still cost $999—but now it’ll have an 11.6-inch display and a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor. Users who demand a 13-inch laptop will now pay $200 more—the base-level 13-inch MacBook Pro ( ) costs $1199.

This ends a long run for the adjectiveless MacBook. In terms of design philosophy, the MacBook’s lineage traces back ten years, to the release of a shiny white polycarbonate iBook in 2001. The iBook name became MacBook in 2006 when Apple switched the Mac over to Intel processors. The new MacBook appeared in both shiny white and matte black models, with the black model being somewhat infamous for its “black tax”—it cost $150 more than an identically configured white model. The MacBook was the first Mac to feature the square key layout that now graces all Apple keyboards, laptop and USB alike.

In 2008 the MacBook briefly assumed the aluminum look of the rest of Apple’s laptop line, and Apple controversially released it without a FireWire port. When that model was upgraded to add FireWire, it joined the MacBook Pro line, leaving the world without a MacBook until late 2009. That was when Apple introduced a plastic version of its “unibody” laptop design. It’s this design that survived until the discontinuation of the product Wednesday.

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