Apple’s New MacBook Pro Headache Could Be Solved At WWDC – Forbes
As Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference approaches, thoughts are turning to the keynote. It’s unusual but not unprecedented for new hardware to be announced at the June event. There are indications that the MacBook portfolio is going to receive an update at WWDC. If there’s one crowd that would applaud a refresh on the MacBook line-up it would be developers – even if they all bought the last update to the laptop range and will never let the internet forget that if they have to buy a new machine within a year.
The updates are expected to be based around Intel’s seventh generation chip design. The Kaby Lake processor already features heavily in the high-end laptops that are running Windows 10 (such as HP’s Spectre 13) and is set to dominate the professional laptop space this year. Apple needs to get on this train as quickly as possible so it is not seen as being ‘left behind’ in the specifications race.
Releasing a Kaby Lake powered MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, alongside a similar bump in chip specs to the MacBook, will keep Apple on the same terms as the competition, but moving this early does come with some risk. This specification change coming just over seven months from the release of the product will be noticed by the geekerati and no doubt come with some vociferous online debate. That could be mitigated by a trade-in program, or Apple could simply ride out the negative energy. A few years ago I would be confident Apple would choose the later and there would be no fallout. Now I’m not so sure.
The third new laptop being discussed is an update to the MacBook Air. Given Apple’s previous moves in its portfolio to minimize the MacBook Air, this could be seen as a reaction to the continued popularity of the machine even in the face of alternatives such as the 12 inch MacBook. Apple may want people to move on, but the market may not be ready for that just yet.
Back to the timing. If this round of updates were to show up later this year in October I would have been less surprised, because many signs have pointed to Apple resetting the product cycle around its desk-bound MacBooks to be at the start of Q4. This would fit with the launch of last year’s MacBook Pro and allow Apple to run up to Christmas with a new laptop machine. I’ve looked at this strategy in more detail here on Forbes.
It still feels like Apple’s timing is out of step with the market. The easiest solution would have been to ensure the MacBook range had moved to Kaby Lake in October last year along with the new hardware. The assumption has been that the required volumes of chips would not have been available and Apple was happy to work with one last iteration of its desk-bound computers using the sixth-generation sky lake chipsets. No doubt that helped the bill of materials and the technical cost of integration, but it has left the MacBook range in an awkward place in terms of timing the move to the next generation hardware.
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