Always the Low Price, Always. Even with Apple.

Walmart Brings the Popular MacBook Air With the M1 Chip to Its Shelves
Available for only $699, Walmart will begin offering the MacBook Air with the M1 chip at an amazing value that combines performance, battery life and portability

Probably not something you were expecting to casually drop on a seemingly random Friday in March:

Walmart will begin selling MacBook Air with the M1 chip – continuing to deliver premium quality and unmatched affordability for customers. MacBook Air features amazing performance and a long battery life in its thin and light design. This is the first time customers can purchase a Mac directly from Walmart. The MacBook Air with the M1 chip is now available on and will soon be available in select Walmart stores for only $699.

This is, without question, both a deal and a big deal. With the release of the M3 MacBook Airs a few weeks ago, Apple no longer sells this M1 MacBook Air directly. As such, the least expensive Apple laptop you can buy (students aside) is now $999 for the base model M2 MacBook Air. That's $100 cheaper than the new base model M3 MacBook Air. And so I say again, it's a big deal that Walmart is now selling a MacBook that's $300 cheaper than the cheapest one you can buy from Apple.

Yes, it's two generations old, but the M1 MacBook was a truly transformative machine for Apple. It allowed Apple to escape the hellish (literally hot as hell) Intel chips for such svelte machines. And it's still going to be fast enough for 99% of users – it's my wife's main machine right now – as the M2 and even M3 were only modest step-ups in terms of performance. And again, that was less about those newer chips and more about just how good of a new base the M1 set.

It also strikes me as interesting that Apple is doing this with Walmart, the largest brick-and-mortar retailer, of course. It's almost as if Apple was holding this card in their back pocket for if and when sales started to waver a bit – which they have been. This should cause a very nice boost for Macs, I imagine.

At the same time, Apple obviously didn't want to be seen as "discounting" their brand, so it's clever to use a machine they no longer sell, but again, is still great. And it even looks slightly different, with the old, beloved "tapered" design, versus the new uniform unibody for the Air. I'm going to go ahead and guess that Apple specifically asked for something along these lines in Walmart's press release as well (emphasis mine):

“Our mission at Walmart is to help customers save money so they can live better – it’s not an either/or proposition. The very heart of that mission is the belief that customers should not have to sacrifice quality because of price,” said Julie Barber, executive vice president of Merchandising at Walmart U.S. “We’re working hard to bring premium brands to our physical and virtual shelves, and we’re excited to work with Apple to do just that.”

Again, this is not Apple discounting, this is Walmart striking a deal to bring "premium brands" to their customers. Remember when everyone was clamoring for Apple to launch a netbook? Read: a cheap MacBook? Well, here you go, sort of!

Update 3/17/24: There was an interesting back-and-forth on Threads yesterday on the question of if this partnership is simply the result of Apple having too many M1 MacBook Airs left in their inventory. My guess -- and others -- was that this was not the case. Inventory management is the thing that Tim Cook is famously good at, perhaps the best in the world. It seemed highly unlikely that he would just "mess up" here. And I've subsequently heard that this is absolutely not the case. This is a full-throated and long-in-the-works partnership with Walmart that will see Apple produce these machines over a long term time horizon. The only real question is if and when these Walmart machines morph into M2 MacBooks...