Apple's Laptop Range - Opinion Piece

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by hartleymartin, Sep 10, 2016.

  1. hartleymartin macrumors regular


    Jul 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    I am increasingly baffled by the Laptop line from Apple. The Laptops have three main categories, which increasingly overlap and I am starting to wonder if Apple is losing the plot with the different types of customers and their differing needs. The MacBook was sort of merged with the MacBook Pro then was dropped, the MacBook Air is a travelling light-weight, but seems to be just becoming a miniature MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro recently dropped the optical drive (let's face it, that was always going to be where Apple would go sooner or later), which means that there is less and less differentiation in the Laptop lines.

    I am not impressed with the new MacBook. It is a product which seems to sit in-between the Air and the Pro models, but seems like a bit of a stab-in-the-dark for Apple.

    Essentially, I think that they have started to loose sight of their user base and need to rethink their line. I'm no design expert, but it would make more sense to me if they differentiated the laptop lines thus:

    - MacBook Pro

    The Laptop for power-users: i7 or i5 CPUs, with a Quad-Core option, capable of at least 16GB, preferably up to 32GB of RAM. Powerful graphics processing. The daily-driver which could act as a powerful desktop replacement computer. More and more people are now using laptops as their primary computers, especially in education and business. This line should be the final word in power and features, capable of being the only computer you could possibly need. Available in 13", 15" and 17" sizes. Perhaps include an optical drive in the 17" models for those who want to play DVDs?

    - MacBook Air

    The Laptop for mobile-users: i5 CPU, 8GB and 16GB RAM options, 250GB SSD storage which can be later upgraded to 500GB or 1TB if the media becomes available. Focus should be on being lightweight and super-long battery life for people on the run. This is the laptop made for portability. 11" and 13" sizes, though the 13" would probably be the more popular as it fits nicely into satchels along with documents and books.

    - MacBook

    The Affordable Mobile Mac (aka The budget/student) model: i3 CPUs, 8GB RAM (expandable) HDD or SSD SATA-III (we're in a transitional stage at the moment, but HDDs are not dead yet) The SSD should be a 2.5" laptop type which is cheaply available these days and even gets up to 2TB and 3TB models. This would be the model mostly used in the education market - for students who are mostly typing assignments and doing a bit of YouTube and Facebook and the like (most students do far more of those two than they are prepared to admit to their teachers!)

    Does this make sense? The options are better defined in this schema. Of course, price point, exact graphics chipsets, and marketing departments will work out the particulars, but I feel quite strongly that this is the direction that Apple should take towards their Laptop line.

    All that said and done, I am typing this on an old Early 2009 White MacBook Core2Duo @ 2.0Ghz which I picked up quite cheap when a fellow student upgraded to a new MacBook Air.

    This is just an opinion piece. What are your thoughts? (I don't work for Apple in any capacity, I'm just interested in their design philosophy.)
  2. BarcelonaPaul Suspended

    Jul 1, 2015
  3. duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    From a design perspective, portable lineup is in a state of transition at the moment.

    MB has the most recent design. MBP and MBair have the oldest designs, and will be updated before the end of the year. Until that happens, things are as they are, and I wouldn't put much value or effort into it beyond that. Wait until Apple releases whatever they have in their design pipeline right now, and then revisit this. That's my advice.
  4. BeatCrazy macrumors 68000

    Jul 20, 2011
    Pretty sure the OP does not do product marketing/planning as a professional career.
  5. gooser macrumors 6502a

    Jul 4, 2013
    let's not forget about the older style pro's for those who still want an optical drive.
  6. where is it macrumors 6502

    where is it

    Jun 19, 2012
    Personally I feel for most people are spoilt for choice these days with the Apple laptop offerings.

    There really is something for everybody.

    If you ignore other peoples wittering and actually give each laptop a go then you will find that they all do 99% of things people generally do, web, email, word, youtube and light gaming, perfectly well performance wise and your main choices whittle down to screen size, weight, ports, colour choice and most importantly price.

    For me personally my priority was portability and screen quality. So for me the Macbook was perfect. And after reading all the rubbish on performance and the turmoil one port would cause to my life - including might I add at the Apple Store too (up-selling?) The performance has been astounding.

    Running Parallels 12 with Lumion 3D is no mean feat for a PC Workstation with a Nvidia Titan graphics card. To do it on a Macbook is - to quote Tim Cook - "Magical"

    For you the choice is amazing these days - we really are spoilt.
  7. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Well, you know what they say about opinions....and I couldn't disagree more with yours (respectfully, of course!).

    We'll find out soon, probably next month, where Apple's laptop direction is headed when they release a redesigned MBP. I think the Air is going to die a slow death just as the old 13" cMBP is; at best it will hang around as a budget Apple laptop for another year or two before EOL. The rumors that the Air is getting some kind of upgrade I think are false on 2 main accounts: first, the rumors (from DigiTimes and the like) are probably actually about new Pros, not Airs, and secondly, as I've stated a lot in other threads, a redesigned Air with a Retina screen, and a large enough battery to give it close to or equal life as the current Air, would be extremely close in size, weight, and processor power as a MacBook Pro. Why bother?

    Where I think Apple needs to go is to a 2 laptop lineup that has clear boundaries: MacBook, and MacBook Pro. All have Retina screens, PCIe SSD's, and USB-C. The MacBook is the consumer/education/student model that does all the standard word processing, web surfing, and emailing that a lot of computers spend their life doing, but pack enough power to do the occasional light video editing and other oddball job their owner might require. They need to be light, and when USB-C saturates the market, it'll only need 1 connection to a monitor to handle video, data, and recharging needs.

    Pros on the other hand are a true desktop replacement, and should have discrete graphics and 16GB base RAM. Pros should be powerful enough to really do some serious heavy lifting, so they wouldn't have the tapered design of the MacBook, and they come with plenty of USB-C and other ports to connect peripherals when needed (which can be many depending on the job). Of course, you'd also be able to plug into a monitor with one USB-C connection for data, video, and power, but they need to be able to plug into lots of stuff out in the field as well.

    As for screen sizes, it would make sense to see MacBooks in 12" and 14", and Pros in 14" and 16". The Pros would be roughly the same size as they are now, with smaller bezels to accommodate the bigger screen.

    So to bring it full circle, given the above proposed lineup, I don't see where the Air would fit in. I think it has gotten squeezed out by the requirements of the Pro and the newer MB.
  8. richinaus macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2014
    A 13 / 14" Kabylake macbook may do it for me - the 12" was too small for my useage. But in all honesty I need something in between what you are saying which I think is the 13" pro - will be slimmed down, reasonably powerful and good portability, but certainly not a desktop replacement.

    We will see what they come out with, which I am looking forward to.
  9. haydn! macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    The MacBook line-up today is pretty much where it was several years ago when the MacBook Air was first released. Back then, we had the MacBook and MacBook Pro - then the Air came long as low-spec, ultra-portable notebook priced in-between the two existing lines.

    Today, the Air is what the MacBook was back then, the entry device. The MacBook Pro is still the 'pro' (term used loosely) notebook and the new MacBook is the 'future' device sitting right in the middle.

    As the MacBook Air is transitioned out of the line-up, the MacBook will drop in price (just as the Air did) and will take up the entry point - just in time for the next 'future' notebook to slide in the middle.

    But... lets not forget Apple are also now clearly wanting to target the iPad as a suitable entry level notebook replacement. So whats to say, the MacBook Air isn't dropped eventually and replaced with an improved iPad/iPad Pro with a few extra features that bring the experience close to macOS.
  10. pika2000 macrumors 601

    Jun 22, 2007
    You basically want Apple to become Dell/HP/Lenovo.

    1. Hard-drives. I don't understand your fascination with this. This is the single most common failure point in a computer. In a portable device like a laptop, it's basically a recipe for disaster. I am glad that Apple went all SSD on their laptops. Hard-drives are heavier, slower, used up more power, less reliable, basically everything you don't want on a laptop. Considering we have USB sticks in the size of 128GB+ nowadays, I don't see people having huge storage issues.

    2. Optical drives. Are you serious? Are you in a time wrap or something? There is only one reason I can think of for optical drives nowadays, pirated software, which is common in Windows world with stores selling pirated software on DVDs. That's it. Movies you say? Even the lay people knows about piratebay or streaming. Considering most PC laptops have ditched the optical drives as well, we know it is the right side of history.

    Apple has stated their vision. But sometimes, technology/cost/margin don't always catch up to what they want yet, thus they have to do what they can with what's available (notably intel's own timing). Remember Steve Job's vision way back when. Apple wants to have 4 lineups. Consumer laptop, consumer desktop, pro laptop, and pro desktop. They have been sticking to this for almost forever, with some caveats due to hardware progression/cost issues.
    For laptops, there were Macbook, and Macbook Pro. Simple. Then Steve Jobs envisioned that consumer laptops will be all wireless and no legacy optical drive/hard-drive, but he knows that it requires a transition, thus the Macbook Air. In Apple mind, the lineup is still the same. Macbook Air for consumer, Macbook Pro for pro. The plastic Macbook lingers around for cost/transition, and finally we were there. Now we have the retina Macbook, progressing further on Apple's original vision. The Macbook Air becomes the transition device as people getting used to a more wireless solution. So technically, Apple is still true to their vision. retina Macbook Pro for pro, retina Macbook for consumers. The Air, just like the plastic Macbook, is a transition device.

    Moving forward, we will see the Macbook Air to have fewer updates, just like the non-retina Macbook Pro. The focus would be in pushing the Macbook in price/margin that Apple wanted for a consumer laptop. Once that is reached, the Macbook Air will be discontinued.

    Heck, going even further in the future, I can see that we will only have Macbook Pros. The consumer "computing" device will be the iPad. It's a bigger transition that is happening of the post PC era.
  11. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    Who wants to lug around a 17" notebook?
    And who wants DVDs?
    I only need a DVD/CD drive these days when I install an OS and the thing doesn't do USB-boot - and that has been the only use-case since the early 2000s.
    Apart from that, I need a CD-drive as much as I need a 5.25" floppy drive.

    Apple's only problem is that they don't have a decent, below 1000 USD entry level notebook (the Airs are only so-so).
    The high-end is - with the exception of the absence of a model with 32GB RAM - well represented with the 15" MBP with and without GPU (where the later ones clearly show the current thermal limits of the design, apparently).

    If the Airs wouldn't be so successful (commercially), Apple would have buried them long ago.

    The rMB is a great portable. And it's as much capability in a laptop as most people will ever need. Unfortunately, it's a bit pricey for that.
  12. Dwalls90 macrumors 601


    Feb 5, 2009
    The MacBook Air is dead come late 2016/early 2017.

    The Macbook Pro is going to become thinner with the chassis redesign, and with a 13.3" retina Pro around (13.3" non-retina pro will be axed too), the 13.3" Air wouldn't be differentiated enough to stay in existence. Apple clearly wants ALL devices to live in the realm of 'retina'.

    With the MacBook continuing to exist in the 12" form factor, an 11" MacBook Air is no longer needed, since the MacBook is basically the next generation MacBook Air, sans some computing power and the addition of retina. Any loss in computing power will be compensated with Intel's new CPU's, therefore ensuring the MacBook line is on par or exceeds current Macbook Air performance.

    It will then be the MacBook at 12" (maybe introduce a 14" variant"), and MacBook Pro at 13.3" and 15.4" (perhaps Apple will change the pro screen sizes, but I doubt this), all offered in at least Silver and a dark space grey/black. I'm sure the Macbook will continue to be offered in Gold and Rose Gold too, but perhaps these color ways won't find themselves in the Pro lineup.
  13. icymountain macrumors 6502

    Dec 12, 2006
    This is all good, but then what laptop is going to serve as an entry model ? Both the MBPr and the MBr start around 1500$/€ and it is not likely either will drop to 1000$/€, though they need something at this price range. The MBA was doing this perfectly!
  14. Dwalls90 macrumors 601


    Feb 5, 2009
    I think you have a point. But with the non-retina 13" MBP dropped, and the Macbook Air dropped, they could easily now allow 2 configurations at each screen size for the rMBP and rMB. This means 8 base models to choose from, so I could expect an $1,099 configuration of the rMB and maybe $1,099 or $1,199 rMBP.
  15. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    I totally get where you guys are coming from, however: once you add a keyboard to an iPad, you've pretty much got something the size of a MacBook, but the limitations of iOS. Apple will have to add a lot to iOS (like a file system for starters) to give it the functionality it needs to be a full laptop replacement. But it'll probably get there someday.
  16. haydn! macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    Completely - there are some 'essential' features missing from iOS. However, it all really depends on what you use the MacBook for. It's highly likely a large portion of the people who buy the low end MacBooks are casual/social users that just email, use Facebook and shop online. An iPad already caters for pretty well - in fact arguably just as good as a Mac! I think that transition is closer than we think... not this update cycle, but certainly within 2-3 years max.

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