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Apple gearing up for early-2015 MacBook Air refresh, begins pruning inventory & halting shipments

With the launch of new MacBook Air models featuring Intel's latest-generation Broadwell processors just around the corner, Apple has begun taking steps to prepare its international distribution partners for the updates, and to sell off remaining inventory of existing Air models, AppleInsider has learned.

Channel partners who sell Apple's Mac family of products in Europe began receiving clues regarding the changes last week, ahead of stateside partners who began receiving their instructions just this week, according to people familiar with the process.

In particular, Apple has halted restock shipments of certain MacBook Air configurations and given the go-ahead to resellers to reduce the prices they're charging for many of the exist 11- and 13-inch modes — a move designed to minimize channel inventory (and almost always a telltale sign that its time for store managers make room in their stock room and customers to warm their credit cards.)

Further corroborating this evidence is the fact that within the last 24 hours, MacBook Air models from several Apple Authorized Resellers listed in AppleInsider's Mac Price Guide (relevant segment below) have begun to reflect additional $50-$100 price cuts on top of their usual reductions. Historically, combined price cuts of this magnitude only materialize two times a year: during the holiday shopping season and when something fresher lay just weeks away.

Still, Apple's distribution and channel partners are often kept in the dark as to when, exactly, new models are set to arrive, or what changes to the products might be made. But one rumor this week suggested new MacBook Air models featuring Intel's Broadwell processors will quietly debut on Feb. 24, just two weeks from today.

With only days to go before that rumored launch, 11 different MacBook Air configurations are now uncharacteristically listed in our Price Guides at discounts of $100 or more. Additionally, MacMall now offers 5 different 11- and 13-inch configurations for under $1000 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), while B&H — which only offered 4 models under $1000 on Monday — now offers 7 at that price point (1, 2, 3,


, 5, 6, 7) , in addition to a 13-inch model that was marked down by as much as $170.00.

Feb. 24 is a particularly noteworthy date for Apple fans, as it's the day that Steve Jobs was born in 1955. Apple has used that date to introduce new products before, having launched updated MacBook Pros on Feb. 24, 2011.

Intel debuted a host of new ultra-low-voltage mobile processors based on its power-sipping Broadwell architecture last month. Specifically, it's been rumored that the company's new ULV Core i5 and Core i7 chips will be featured in the refreshed MacBook Airs.

Also looming is a new, completely redesigned 12-inch MacBook Air with a high-resolution Retina display. That notebook is expected to launch this quarter, which runs through the end of March, though there has been no indication that it will go on sale as soon as this month.