Stephen Baker: Drop the MacBook below $800

Stephen Baker, Vice President of Industry Analysis for The NPD Group, released his analysis of Apple's sales trends following the recent release of January sales figures. In his opinion? If Apple keeps up its current pricing strategy, it's going to flounder in today's economy. The solution? If Apple can't produce a netbook, then slash the price of the MacBook down to $799 in order to bring a mainstream price to a high-end product.

How low can you go? Discussion on this article behind the scenes here at TUAW resulted in the observation that if you drop the price too much, you'll wind up diluting the brand itself. Apple commands higher prices, but it also has the product to back it up -- and it has made some price concessions. You can pay $999 now for a better MacBook than I paid $1399 for just 15 months ago, and one that will last much longer than most PC notebooks on the market. Drop the price too much and not only will the brand get diluted, it'll spark even more fears that something is wrong with the company. There's a fine line between premium and cheap, and a lot of that is psychological.

Personally, I would also think less of Apple if it jumped on the netbook bandwagon just because everyone else did. It didn't even venture into the smartphone market until it could develop a device that not only blew away the competition, but changed the cell phone industry itself. If Apple is going to produce a netbook, then let it produce one that'll stand out and won't get lost among the Acers, Dells and eeePCs out there. But, don't slash MacBook prices to compensate for the lack of one either.

What are your thoughts on Baker's observations? Let us know in the comments.