Apple’s Mac lineup is stale, and that is putting it mildly. The Mac Pro is now a staggering 2 1/2 years into its lifecycle without a single upgrade. The MacBook Air has seen almost no changes, save for incremental processor updates since 2010. The iMac form factor has not changed since the fall of 2012. The newly minted MacBook and MacBook Pro's have seen only slight incremental upgrades this past year, and the Mac mini is a mere afterthought. What's going on?
The only significant new release to Apple’s Mac lineup has been the MacBook (of which I use and love), in April of 2015. It recently received a slight Intel processor update. Wow... In fact, all Apple has been keen to do the past few years is release Intel processor updates to products, with the MacBook Air still living in an ancient design, with what can now only be described as a horribly low-resolution display. Apple’s Mac lineup has become a cash cow with little invention, but that may be about to change.
Sometimes you can learn just as much about a company by what is not said as opposed to what is said. Case in point is Tim Cook & Co.’s most recent special event held this past week. At the special event we were dazzled by an updated iPhone line and a new iPad Pro size. Like a magician, Apple said, “Look over here!” However, what one product line — product category — did Apple not talk about at all, as if it didn’t even exist. Macs.
Every model in the Mac product category is now over a year old — even their newest items. Some Macs, like the Mac Pro are now over two years old. It seems like the Mac line-up has been relegated to cash-cow status and therefore Apple is putting as little effort (aka little money) into Macs as possible and reaping as much margin and cash as possible. Or is something else afoot?
Say it ain't so but DigiTimes may have just pulled a rabbit out of their hat, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. The publication's latest rumor claims Apple will be launching all-new MacBooks during the second calendar quarter. Of course, DigiTimes may only have this partially correct.
During Apple's special event on Monday no new MacBook graced the stage, leaving many wondering when the now aging year old product would receive an update. I've speculated that a 14" version, complimenting the 12.1" model would make a great fit to the lineup, but nothing has yet to materialize.
If you are in the market for a new Mac, now is probably the worst time in recent history to purchase one. Following Apple for over two decades now, it is clear that the culture of our favorite fruit company allows it to only really focus on one major project at a time. While the iPhone is on an annual update schedule, Macs updates have fallen by the wayside like the ugly step sister from the fairytale Cinderella.
Apple’s all-new iPad Pro has been breaking some land-speed records. Testing has revealed the iPad Pro’s processor runs laps around Intel’s Core-M chipset (found within Apple’s MacBook), while coming perilously close to Intel’s flagship Core-i5 series of chips.
The simplified history is Apple’s ARM-based designs have been moving north faster than Intel can move south into the mobile space. The question one must ask is, how long will it be until Apple equips their Mac notebooks with their own A-series processors? There are a number of factors that go into such a massive foundational decision, but the positives — assuming the A–series chips continue their northerly trajectory — should quickly outweigh the negatives.
2015 has not been a great year for Apple, but the year had started with great promise. Apple Watch was to be Cook’s new product category, helping balance Apple’s sales ledger from heavy iPhone success. It was to be Cook’s version of the introducing the first iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad to the market. However the Apple Watch launch was blundered like no other in recent Apple history. Within hours, Apple Watch inventory was depleted from online sales, leaving nothing for in-store purchases — on the first day! You could come in, try on a Apple Watch, decide which one was right for you, select additional bands, and then go over to a Mac and order online with a delivery not to happen for the next 2 or 3 months. Awful. What should have been a great success, and caused huge lines in the malls across the country turned out to be a big, big dud. Since then Apple has built up the inventory to match a marginal demand, but Cook and company missed their big opportunity that the iPhone had upon its first day of sales.
I have bemoaned Apple’s laptop lineup before, but every time I look at it, I still cringe. I can not imagine someone going into an Apple Store today and clearly understanding the reason (and the difference) between a 13" MacBook Air and a 12" MacBook. Or between an 11" MacBook Air and the new iPad Pro.
Tim Cook is running all about this week talking about the iPad Pro as his new notebook. He claims all he needs is his iPad Pro and his iPhone. Fine, fantastic. But while he is euphorically trying to restart growth in the iPad line up, he is, at the same time, furthering muddling the notebook line up, making the consumer choice confusing. Sometimes I long for the days where the authoritarian Steve Jobs would say you can have a notebook and it comes in these three models — that’s it. Jobs loved simplicity and Apple’s product lines almost always reflect that. Everything was easy to understand. The differences between each model was clear, including the pricing, and therefore made the choice simple for the purchaser.
Yesterday we awoke to some new Mac goodies and accessories. First a new 4K iMac was introduced and a refresh to the one year old 5K iMac. Both are welcomed editions and continue to show Apple’s commitment to the desktop. Of note is that for connectivity neither included the new USB-C port, but instead the familiar USB 3 & Thunderbolt 2 ports. Apparently USB-C is only going to be something we see in notebooks going forward.
Also included in the goodie-bag were some new accessories: a new keyboard, trackpad and mouse. The Magic Keyboard leverages the scissor technology introduced this spring in the new 12" retina MacBook. This gives the keyboard a lower profile and supposedly makes typing more accurate. The other major changes was a lithium-ion battery is built within, so there is no need to change out batteries. Instead a lighting/usb cable will recharge this bad boy when it runs low on power. The new Magic Trackpad 2 adds force-touch and the new Magic Mouse 2 has fewer moving parts and supports multi-touch. Both items also include built-in lithium-ion batteries, so Apple is eliminating the need for separate rechargeable batteries or off-the shelf disposable batteries. Because all accessories have built-in lithium-ion batteries, it means their prices have jumped from previous models they replace. But when you figure the cost of disposable batteries, or Apple’s rechargeable batteries, over the life of these items, the cost difference is negligible, yet the convenience/ease-of-use vastly improved.
Anyone remember this bad boy display? The original 15" LCD Studio Display, complete with a translucent frame. Well times have certainly changes since its introduction in 1998, but it seems the display department at Apple is stuck behind the times. It is almost as if Apple does not want to sell their current display or even play in this market, which is a lost opportunity for additional revenue.
iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad — all the non-OS X products in Apple’s stable have been revved and the product line is clean and clear. For example, there is no product overlap between an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus — or even between those and the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Also there is no overlap between iPad models or between Apple Watch models. Within each of these product lines if you have a specific need or want, the choice of which product is right for you is fairly straightforward. That is unless you are in the market for an OS X powered notebook.
This is where things get messy and rather quickly. Usually bigger size means more money. But not with Apple’s notebooks. There is the entry model MacBook Air that leads the pac for price conscious consumers starting under $1,000 USD. But both standard 13" MacBook Air models are at least $100 less expensive than the smaller, entry level 12" MacBook. The MacBook offers more state-of-the-art technology than the Air’s (new keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, retina display, USB-C and multiple colors), but in consumer’s minds 12" is less than 13" so shouldn’t it cost less? Making matters worse, if a customer asks which one is more powerful, confusion can quickly ensue. The MacBook and MacBook Air use different chips, thus the MacBook Air is more powerful, and has powerful upgrade options, than the lightweight MacBook.