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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

[Opinion] With the new iPhone on the horizon, why is everyone worried about a new MacBook Pro?

The rumors have it that the newest iPhone is only weeks away from being announced (most likely next month in September) and while the leaks have been coming fast and furious, there is another Apple product that has been getting a lot of attention, but not a lot of love - that's the yet to be announced refresh of Apple's MacBook Pro line of laptops.  While the new MacBook is amongst the lightest and thinnest mobile PCs, the Pro is really the top of the food chain where Apple is concerned.  Considering they started as a computer company, you would think this would be at the top of Apple's product list every year or 2.  And apparently, you'd be wrong.

The hype surrounding the newest iPhone launching is real, and on blatant display every year.  The announcements come with their fair share of fan fare and hyperbole, touting every thing as "the greatest ever" and "groundbreaking and revolutionary."  Most of this is just Apple's slick marketing machine hard at work, but a space where they actually have long been breaking ground is their mobile computing division.  The MacBook Pro, Air, and newest MacBook are devices that have been among the most powerful, last the longest, and are on the cutting edge of tech.  Whether its the MacBook Air's slimmer than slim profile, the "retina" quality display in the MacBook Pro, or the redesigned keyboard in the new MacBook, Apple has for a while been atop the leaderboard of laptop grade computing.  So when there are articles out there citing the exact # of days since the launch of the last MacBook Pro, it starts to make you wonder: what is going on here with Apple and their laptops?  The retina panel addition to the current MacBook Pro came in May of 2015, which is a lifetime ago in terms of technology.  Dell's XPS line of ultra books began creeping into the top spot of conversations back in 2014, and has only improved since then.  It used to be there was the MacBook Pro...and then there's everything else.  now, the landscape is a bit more complicated (for Apple) and they are partially to blame for it by letting the iPhone be the flagship device of their company.
Now, however rumors are starting to surface that the MacBook Pro line is going to receive a huge refresh/upgrade/update - whatever you want to call it.  The report from Forbes (via Bloomberg) is that sources have indicated that a thinner, lighter, redesigned MacBook will contain things like TouchID in its power button and an OLED bar replacing the function keys across the top of the keyboard.  New more powerful CPUs will be joined by more powerful graphics processors as well, and the display will most likely remain its very sharp and bright "retina" quality.  Of some concern is the potential for the inclusion or strong use of USB-C in the newest MacBook Pro, which is the only connection type of the newest, smaller MacBook (although the concern was mostly over the fact that it only contained 1 such USB-C connection, not that fact that it used it to begin with) - but most folks looking for information on the new MacBook Pro probably will be more concerned that there IS one versus what connection ports it is rumored to use.

This newest refreshed MacBook Pro couldn't come at a better time for Apple - their sales of Macs dropped 11% in the 2nd quarter, down to 4.3 million devices.  MacRumors has every Mac (other than the recently released 12 inch MacBook) listed as a "Don't Buy" not only because an announcement is probably on the horizon but also because competitors are catching up.  But when you take a look at their overall book of business, Apple would seem to be moving away from the PC sector.  In the 4th quarter of 2015, over 62% of Apple's revenue was generated by....iPhone sales.  That's staggering, and the iPhone is without question an unmitigated success.  But "Apple Computing" used to be a thing.  And a way it is...if you consider the iPhone and mobile phones in general "computing devices."  In a lot of real ways, they are.

But the world still uses and needs PCs, and laptops in particular.  This article and most of the ones posted here at Silicon Theory are drafted, written, and published via one.  The Silicon Theory Podcast is edited and published using one.  Every day, hundreds of thousands of people (if not outright millions like Windows PCs) work on Apple computer products, whether its MacBooks (Air/Pro) and iMac PCs.  This used to be an area where Apple shined as making the best of best, with cutting edge design and specs, and while they haven't dominated the PC market in a way that Windows PCs have (and will continue to do so) you can say without question they are amongst the first choice of students and private citizens when it comes to laptop computers.  I mentioned in a previous article you can't help but notice the number of glowing apple logos around you when entering any coffee shop that offers free WiFi.  The MacBook is synonymous with a laptop in most consumers minds.
The Note 7 features include an
iris scanner and water resistance

The speed of change in mobile phone tech is astonishing at times, with companies like Samsung  pushing the limits of what we thought was impossible just a few years ago for a phone.  Want your phone waterproof?  Done.  Don't want to use a PIN or your fingerprint to lock/unlock your phone?  No problem, we'll include a iris scanner so you don't have to.  Moore's Law stipulates that the speed of microprocessor power is likely to double every 2 years, but this would impact PCs and laptops in the same way it has mobile phones.  The cost of producing a mobile phone is much smaller (compared to PCs) and this might be what's causing the delay in producing new MacBook Pro devices, although Apple is also sitting on a literal and figurative mountain of cash, so maybe - maybe not.

Maybe what it really is is that everyone has now come to expect the "latest and greatest" from Apple, and the decline in record profits over the last 2 quarters for iPhone sales reflect that people see the new iPhone as not meeting that expectation.  And perhaps Apple was waiting to release a new MacBook Pro until they had something really groundbreaking to show up with, like a OLED touchscreen that replaces a row of function keys.  Or a battery supply that lasts longer than 8 hours in continuous use.  Something, anything that will wow people in a way that nothing has done since....well, the last MacBook Pro was launched.  And as of now, that's a been a mighty long time. And counting.

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