Apple to disrupt notebook space with radically redesigned MacBook Pros

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014


While most of its rivals are struggling to match innovations Apple pioneered with its first MacBook Airs over three years ago, the Mac maker this year is hoping to further distance itself from the competition with a pair of radically redesigned professional offerings that will set the tone for the next wave of notebook computing.



In particular, people familiar with Apple's roadmap say the Cupertino-based company currently plans to exit 2012 having completed a top-to-bottom revamp of its notebooks lineup that will see new MacBook Pros adopt the same design traits that have made its MacBook Airs an increasingly popular choice among mobile consumers.



This will include new, ultra-thin unibody enclosures that jettison yesteryear technologies like optical disk drives and traditional hard drives in favor of models with lightweight chassis that employ flash-memory based solid-state drives, instant-on capabilities, extended battery life, and rely on digital distribution for software and media.



"They're all going to look like MacBook Airs," one person familiar with the new MacBook Pro designs told AppleInsider. Meanwhile, existing MacBook Pro designs are expected to be phased out over the course of the year.



Much in the same way that Apple initiated its last MacBook Pro overhaul by first revamping the higher-volume 15-inch models, and only then following up a few months later with a redesigned 17-inch counterpart, the company is again said to be giving priority to its new 15-inch model. A 17-inch model is expected to follow shortly thereafter.



As such, AppleInsider believes that based on its information, leaks out the Far East regarding an ultra-thin 15-inch Apple notebook slated to hit the market this spring indeed pertain to Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro makeover, regardless of what marketing name the company ultimately chooses to stamp on its bezel. It's to rely heavily on Thunderbolt and be built around Intel's forthcoming Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and mobile components currently slated to start shipping in April.





An illustration of Apple's notebook lineup planned for the 2012 calendar year.





The transition comes at a time when Apple's notebook sales are surging in the face of a broader market contraction, prompting competitors to retool their own offerings in a similar manner in hopes of stemming the slow but increasingly material market shift towards the Mac maker's sleek and sexy designs.



Since introducing its first MacBook Air, Apple has seen its notebook sales increase nearly threefold, from 1.342 million units quarterly in January of 2008 to 3.719 million units during the company's most recently ended quarter. A huge chunk of that growth took place in the 12-months after Apple revamped the Air with lower pricing and the addition of an 11-inch model, with shipments rising nearly 1 million units from 2.643 million in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010 to the 3,616 million units in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2011.





Apple's notebook sales have surged from roughly 1 million units per quarter 3 years ago to nearly 4 million units today.





Although existing MacBook Pros continue to outsell MacBook Airs, the gap between the two has been contracting, with Apple management continually crediting the MacBook Air with helping to drive the company's overall computer business. For instance, this past October Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer reported a then record 4.89 million Mac sales for the prior quarter, a 26% yearly increase that he said was "fueled by the very strong growth in MacBook Air as well as the continued strong performance of MacBook Pro."



The popularity of Apple's MacBook Airs finally drew the earnest attention of rival PC makers over last year, who under the guidance of Intel have been attempting to mimic the super-sleek notebooks with an assortment of models based off the chipmaker's "Ultrabook" reference design.



Specifically, Intel's definition of an initial first-phase Ultrabook calls for notebooks that are less than 21 mm thick, weight no more than 3.1 pounds, use flash-based SSDs, offer 5 to 8 hours of battery life, and cost around $1,000. However, that latter specification -- price point -- initially proved challenging for the PC makers, who petitioned Intel for a 50% price cut on Ultrabook microprocessors in hopes of keeping their margins material. Intel ultimately denied the request, granting a 20% cut instead.



In addition to struggling with pricing, Ultrabook makers have also had to contend with Apple's dominance in the overseas supply chain. Last August it was reported that Ultrabook makers were out-muscled by Apple in acquiring magnesium-aluminum chassis, which are ideal for creating a notebook less than 0.8-inch thick. This forced some vendors to turn to alternative materials such as plastic in order to compete with Apple's pricing.



Still, Ultrabook vendors such as Acer and Asus saw their initial offerings struggle to gain traction in the market when pitted against the MacBook Air, prompting the two to reduce initial orders by as much as 40%. The two companies originally planned to build as many as 300,000 Ultrabooks by the end of 2011, but slow sales forced them to reduce those orders to between 150,000 and 180,000 units. They're now looking toward a $100 marketing subsidy from Intel to help drive prices down as much as 10% during the first quarter of 2012.





HP's $900 Folio13 Ultrabook lacks the panache and allure of Apple's MacBook Airs.







At the same time, Apple has not only seen sales of MacBook Airs surge but managed to simultaneously driven its overall gross profit margins higher in the process, which are now well in excess of 40%. It has done so by extending the same fundamentals to MacBook Air production that led to its dominance in the mobile phone and tablet markets, where secret long-term licensing deals for components and manufacturing capacity have garnered it rock-bottom pricing that is squeezing out rivals who aren't seeing high enough volumes to command such arrangements.



With this year's MacBook Pro revamp, Apple is looking to extend the same fundamentals to its most premium priced notebooks in a move that threatens over time to further disrupt the notion that its products are more costly than those from rival PC makers. It also threatens to place those same PC makers in another round of follow the leader that could ultimately pave the way for a changing of the guard in the personal computer market over the next several years should they fail to catch up in a timely manner.



What's not immediately clear is how Apple plans to bridge the gap currently filled by the 13-inch MacBook Pro, though there has been some informed speculation that rumors of MacBook Airs with faster memory and irreplaceable SSDs originally rumored for last year could materialize this year, possibly opening the door for 13-inch Air-style MacBook Pro with slightly more flexibility and brawn.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • dgnr8dgnr8 Posts: 196member
    Bout Time
  • rob55rob55 Posts: 1,180member
    Figures, I just bought a 15" MBP last summer. Can't wait to see what the new designs will look like. Now if they'd only just refresh the Mac Pro line, I'd be a happy camper.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,202member
    As long the SSDs are easily replaceable as larger and less expensive ones become available I'm all in.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DGNR8 View Post


    Bout Time



    Not soon enough for me.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    As long the SSDs are easily replaceable as larger and less expensive ones become available I'm all in.



    Are they going to use SSDs or the flash cards they use in the MBAs? I'm hoping they use both, at least with space enough for a standard SSD thickness which would also allow for a single-platter HDD which would be slower (though not an issue for data) but also cheaper per GB. You'd still get to boot from the flash card in under 10 seconds.
  • johnnyb0731johnnyb0731 Posts: 326member
    Yes and more yes
  • herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,173member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    As long the SSDs are easily replaceable as larger and less expensive ones become available I'm all in.



    Its all nice except for SSD prices indeed. Its still too expensive but maybe Apple cut a deal and we will see SSD with decent prices and decent storage.



    I am planning to buy a laptop this year, so good timing.
  • bigbillygoatgruffbigbillygoatgruff Posts: 293member
    I have been waiting a looooooong time. I really hope this happens soon.
  • old-wizold-wiz Posts: 188member
    But what about people who need 500 GB storage? or wired ethernet?
  • cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    Hopefully there will better Thunderbolt peripheral options for these issues when Apple rolls these new MacBook Pros out.



    In any case, it's pure speculation at this time, we don't know what features/functionality will be added/removed.
  • herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,173member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Are they going to use SSDs or the flash cards they use in the MBAs? I'm hoping they use both, at least with space enough for a standard SSD thickness which would also allow for a single-platter HDD which would be slower (though not an issue for data) but also cheaper per GB. You'd still get to boot from the flash card in under 10 seconds.



    You think they can fit a conventionnal HDD in that space?



    Personnaly I would still go 100% SSD because I kind of like the idea of a laptop with no moving parts.
  • gwmacgwmac Posts: 1,795member
    The very first Macbook Air didn't really set any sales records and IIRC sold pretty poorly compared to the other Mac offerings. Sales really only took off when Apple radically changed the prices to become affordable. Wasn't the first Air around $1,800? Too lazy to google it. I think this new change is a logical progression. Apple has always been obsessed with thin.



    Would be nice if Apple made a a thunderbolt accessory to match the design that included a DVD burner and a large hard drive around 1 TB or larger for use at home. SSD's are nice, but really limit your storage options so many people will still need that option. I only hope they include decent GPU options and aren't forced to use Intel for the GPU as well which is likely. That might be the major drawback with the ultra thin design, less powerful CPU and GPU compared to the current models. Most people with laptops rarely bother carrying them anywhere and they are mostly used as the main home computer sitting on a desk at home. That is largely due to being able to use your iPhone for many things that used to require a computer.
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,982member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by herbapou View Post


    You think they can fit a conventionnal HDD in that space?



    Personnaly I would still go 100% SSD because I kind of like the idea of a laptop with no moving parts.



    "The new MacBook Family. The only moving part is the hinge."
  • beltsbearbeltsbear Posts: 304member
    Apple should not make the pros too much like the airs. If I wanted and air, I would purchase an air.



    Yes, drop the DVD, I almost never use it. But do not drop the faster processor or the rotating HDD. And have room for BOTH an SSD and a conventional HDD. I would love to have my OS on an SSD with a 1 TB rotating hdd for data. By dropping the DVD there will be more then enough room for both.
  • dickprinterdickprinter Posts: 1,060member
    I didn't see the words "rumor" or "purported" in the headline and it's Kaspar.....the big man, head cheese, grand poobah of AI, himself, writing the article.....so I guess this is true!
  • lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    "The new MacBook Family. The only moving part is the hinge."



    What about the keys and the trackpad? don't they count as moving parts?
  • hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,873member, moderator
    I love my MBA 13



    I'll NEVER go back to booting off of a platter HDD.



    I wouldn't be surprised to see the MBP lineup add 2 Thunderbolt ports and

    they could still have a HDD drive for mass storage as those Pro working on audio

    or video are still going to need a portable workstation that has mass storage for

    audio and video files. Photographers as well would need mass storage.



    The timing is right for SSD.



    Samsung has their 830 Series SSD and Intel just announced their 520 series SSD. The performance on these SSD are double what we have now with the MBA. Both are doing 450Mbps writes and faster reads. That's amazing.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,202member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by herbapou View Post


    Its all nice except for SSD prices indeed. Its still too expensive but maybe Apple cut a deal and we will see SSD with decent prices and decent storage.



    I am planning to buy a laptop this year, so good timing.



    I suspect Apple will drive the cost down dramatically one way or another. I wouldn't be surprised to read about schemes to keep costs down by Apple over the coming weeks ranging from buy aheads to investment in manufacturing. Ironically I bet we see old fashioned HDs costs stop lowering if not rise as Apple drive demand to solid state. However this can't happen till we start seeing TB+ solid state at reasonable costs.



    I only commented on the ability swap them out easily as the article referenced one rumor that they would not be which seems crazy. But I agree they are currently crazy high $ and that's why the last two Macs I got in 2011 are MBPs which I upgraded the RAM and HDs immediately to 8 gigs and 1TB respectively.



    I know my next Mac will be solid state and I can't wait



    Edit ... Maybe wireless external storage (more solid state of course) from Apple are coming with new high speed protocol.
  • hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,873member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post


    What about the keys and the trackpad? don't they count as moving parts?



    Don't forget the fans ;-)
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,982member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post


    What about the keys and the trackpad? don't they count as moving parts?



    Multitouch bottom surface. No physical keyboard. You heard it here last.
  • lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    Don't forget the fans ;-)



    Is the Cube the only one that had no fan?



    I am looking for decent price on SSD drive for my current MacBook Pro 2011 17" - got a 750GB 5400 RPM in there now - got a 500GB hybrid to swap in but could not get the 750 to work in the external enclosure - so wanting a Crucial M4 512GB SSD - but a bit more than I would care to spend at the moment. It will go nicely with the 16GB of RAM I recently installed.
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