New MacBook Pro’s Annual Upgrade Ritual – Forbes
What happens next with Apple’s MacBook Pro? The obvious answer in 2017 is the addition of Intel’s seventh-generation Core processors. With the MacBook Pro hardware getting closer in feel to the iPad Pad, is Apple getting ready to move to a yearly update schedule that echoes its tablet and smartphone hardware?
Apple had little choice but to outfit the late 2016 MacBook Pro machines with Intel’s sixth generation of Core processors. The seventh-generation Kaby Lake’chips are now becoming available in sufficient volume, so the next iteration of the MacBook Pro machines will come with the new chipsets.
One of the marketing issues around the 2016 MacBook Pro machines was the length of time between major updates to the Pro line-up – the last substantive update that was more than bumping up the chipset was in early 2015. Although the Touch Bar was welcomed by the geekerati, the new MacBook Pro machines were typified by the chip increase, a move towards USB-C ports for input and output, and an iteration on the by now boring and long-lived design. That’s going to be the style of upgrades to the laptop range moving forwards.
Inside the casing, the MacBook Pro is not an easy machine to repair. In looking to make the laptop as thin as possible many components are tightly packed on the circuit board and there are very few pop connectors or plugs – soldering chips and wires directly to the board appears to be the preferred choice by Apple’s design team. Looking at the hardware the new MacBook Pro machines have more in common with the iPad Pro machines of today than the highly configurable and accessible MacBook Pro machines of the past.
I believe that is by design. The days of a consumer buying a MacBook in 2010 and keeping it in good condition through personal maintenance and servicing parts for seven years may do wonders for Apple’s customer satisfaction, but it doesn’t contribute to Apple’s bottom line. The new internals mean that major repairs need to be done in an Apple Store or by an authorized repairer, while natural wear and tear will be addressed either by an expensive repair or Apple hoping consumers feel that it would a good time to get a new machine.
I believe that Apple will bring over the iterative updating ethos from the iPad and the iPhone to the MacBook. The form factor will stay relatively fixed for a number of years, there will be no major surprises in the hardware, and Apple will work to bring small changes to the table every 12 months, probably around October each year for the reveal and a retail release in late November in time to catch the festive rush.
And that looks suspiciously like the cadence of the iPhone and iPad portfolios.
Tim Cook’s Apple has shown a preference for predictability. The iPhone was pretty much locked into an annual cadence thanks to network contract considerations with a new model offered every year and users picking up a new handset every two years. The iPad has been a little bit more hit and miss, but is now settling into spec bumps on a regular schedule with users looking to upgrade after three or four years.
Now it’s the turn of the MacBook Pro. I expect the range to go through incremental updates every year raising specifications such as memory, processor, storage, and battery life. That’s not going to be enough to have most people clamoring to buy a new machine every October (and certainly not at the price points Apple demands), but after three years of use, 36 months of incremental upgrades will look very attractive to the average user.
No doubt getting users onto a regular and predictable upgrade schedule is attractive to Apple as well.
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