MacBook Air more profitable than other Apple laptops, says analyst
"This is where Apple has always skewed their margins positively," Rassweiler said. "They offer an entry price point, but then go after the upgrade, where they bring in incrementally more memory, but at a higher margin on their end."
The iPad is a perfect example, he argued, noting that Apple makes a bigger profit on the high-end model that sports 64GB of flash memory storage space than the lowest-priced configuration that boasts just 16GB.
"That goes straight to Apple's bottom line," said Rassweiler, "because they make a ton of money on flash [memory]."
Michael Yang, the iSuppli analyst who tracks flash memory pricing, said that Apple's consumption -- in everything from the iPhone and iPad to, now, the MacBook Air -- puts it in a position others can't equal. "Not only can others not match Apple, they don't want to match Apple," said Yang.
Apple's appetite for flash lets it move the market price if it wants, and allows it to buy in bulk when prices are low, knowing that the RAM will be used in one device or another, something other hardware makers with smaller needs may be hesitant to do.
"Apple's a great reseller of flash," said Marshall, defending his BOM and margin estimates. "It's true that [an SSD] costs more per megabyte than a hard drive, but there's not a ton of it in the Airs, relative to other Apple notebooks."
The low-end MacBook, for example, features a 250GB platter-based hard drive, four times the capacity of the identically priced 11.6-in. 64GB MacBook Air.
And the move to SSD-only notebooks makes sense, added Rassweiler, because Apple's realized that people don't always need huge hard drives in their laptops. "Do you need a terabyte drive in your laptop? Probably not," he said. "In fact, you may not want a drive that large, because it puts all your eggs in one basket."
Instead, he suggested, Apple's MobileMe sync and storage service becomes the link between multiple machines, letting users share information among a number of devices, and store files in the cloud.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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