A source in the supply chain has told DigiTimes Apple will release the $799 (£494) MacBook Air in Q3 this year, which translates as sometime between July and September. It's expected to be the company's answer to the current crop of ultrabooks.
Ultrabooks are becoming more common, with second generation models emerging from the likes of Sony, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo. The source says they don't think ultrabooks will really start selling until Windows 8 launches.
They didn't give any specs for this budget Air, but I reckon it would pack an 11-inch screen, perhaps with a 32GB SSD. While the $799 price tag converts to £500, I'd expect it to cost more than that. The current MacBook Air starts at £849, or $999 in the US, so I think us Brits would be looking at at least £700. Not exactly cheap for a laptop, but then this is Apple we're talking about.
Apple is expected to redesign the MacBook Pro so it resembles the Air, slimming it down and making it lighter. It may also add a retina display, like on the new iPad, which would be quite some package. It could also be preparing a larger MacBook Air. So expect a killer laptop lineup from Apple this summer.
But maybe Apple's biggest threat will come from Qualcomm. A few weeks ago it announced its smartbooks will be thinner and lighter than anything that's gone before. It promised the devices back in 2009, but only showed off some prototypes. They'll use Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon S4 chip, and should go on sale in the second half of the year. Google's Chromebooks have gone a little quiet of late, but maybe that's because Google is putting its energies into a tablet.
Would you buy a cheaper MacBook Air? Let me know in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.