New cheap MacBooks to make Apple tablet even more pointless

So, in the same swarm of rumors that has new iMacs with Blu-ray included comes word of new cheap MacBooks, perhaps also with Blu-ray. While numbers on the exact prices are scarce, the buzz seems to be that they'll cost less than the current $999 MacBook, which will bring Apple into the sub-$1,000 notebook market more than just nominally.

AppleInsider has a helpful chart showing the projected range of Apple's wireless devices available for three digits, which, it seems to me, makes the supposed tablet seem even less like something anyone would actually buy. While pegged in the chart at "$599 to $799," all the recent rumors about this product have it at the high end of the range. If there's a real computer available for, say, $100 or $150 more than the tablet, will anybody buy it? It strikes me as dubious.

To be fair, though, there were plenty of instances where Apple's pricing has worked in seemingly illogical ways -- when you could get significantly more storage on an iPod for not much more money, for instance, when jumping across iPod models. The key, I suppose, will be for Apple to make clear that the tablet is a really, really different category of thing -- and that it does something remarkably better than either a laptop or an iPhone. I'm not convinced it's possible, but never count out Apple's ability to slice and dice up the market for its profit.

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