The future of MacBooks (long read)

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by pgiguere1, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. pgiguere1 macrumors 68020


    May 28, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    That recent MacBook Pro announcement had me surprised. Like many people here, I expected bells and whistles: thinner body, high-res screen, SSD - basically anything that would have made the Mac “cooler” than the average PC. I even expected Apple to surprise us with a revamped feature, not necessarily requested but much appreciated once you know how it works, something à la the glass Trackpad that came with the unibody redesign. Instead, we mainly got a specs bump. We, however, got a huge one. Seriously, who expected that? Core i5 or i7 in the 13”, and i7 quads in the 15” and 17”?. People expected an i3 in the 13”, hoped for an i5, and even feared that the C2D would stay. This had me thinking, and my guess is that Apple is taking the MBP into another direction. They’re giving the “Pro” back to MacBook Pro. Let’s recap what happened in the past years.

    Back during the pre-unibody MacBook era, there was a strong distinction between a MacBook and a MacBook Pro. For one, the price difference was huge. You almost had to be a Pro to justify to buy one of those machines. You had discrete graphics, matte screens, and all the ports a Pro would want. The MacBook, on the other hand, was an accessible machine, very popular for home and amongst students. Then the Unibody MacBook came. I bought one myself, and loved it. It wasn’t that much more expensive than the regular MacBook, yet felt like a much more high-end product. Then, they renamed it to MacBook Pro 13”. That’s when the product segmentation changed. A Mac didn’t have to be that powerful anymore to be called “Pro”. So much that even the 15” MBP dropped discrete graphics on its lower configuration. That was weird. But hey, the MacBook Pro then had a new price point and sold much more than before. It became the most popular Mac, selling as much as all other Mac computers combined. Even people on a budget felt that is was worth stretching the extra cash for a 13” MBP. I think it was, in fact, one of the best computer lines ever produced and reached a very broad market.

    The white MacBook gradually became less in less popular, and for a reason. People buying it basically bought it for being “the cheapest Mac laptop”. The product itself wasn’t very appealing, except maybe for young women who thought it was fashionable and girly. The MacBook Air was still expensive, and perceived by people as a “form over function” computer, more meant for Apple to break a record and get the crowd’s attention than to actually serve a purpose. Then the MBA got better. It went down in price, and had SSD standard. As the horsepower on more powerful machines kept upgrading, people started to understand that a hard drive was a huge bottleneck for performance. The MBA got credit for being more than just a thin computer. It was also the fastest for light usage. But meh, 64GB or 128GB of storage? That’s small. 256GB so expensive that you could get a 15” MBP instead? Seems like a better choice. It wasn’t a total success.

    People had faith that this was in fact, like Apple claims, “the MacBook of the future”. Since the MacBook everybody buys is the MacBook Pro, people translated this as “That’s what the MacBook Pro will be inspired by”. That’s what I thought. And now, this new refresh makes me doubt. It seems to me like the MBP is leaving the casual market, leaving place for the MacBook Air to take the ground. It’s not ready yet, but the transition is starting to take place.

    Remember the iPods? Yeah. That’s what happened. The iPod (classic) used to be very popular. It was big, strong, powerful, had lots of storage, but was on the pricey side. Just like the old MacBook Pro. Then came the Nano, like the MacBook Pro 13”. Its limited storage was enough for a lot of people, and the iPod appealed to an even wider market. Then came the iPod touch. It had the newest technology, but was very pricey compared to a classic, especially for its storage size. It wasn’t that popular at first. “What would you need an iPod touch for?” people asked. It seemed like a touchscreen was mainly good for the “cool factor”. People didn't expect to pay 500$ for a music player offering very little storage space when the Classic/Nano did the job just fine. Seems familiar? That’s what’s happening with the MacBook Air right now. Notice how the iPod touch is also the best-selling iPod right now, yet didn’t change that much since its introduction. Price went down. Storage went up. It kept being refined every generation, and hit the mass market. Hard. Now why would you want an iPod classic? Some people do have very large music collections, but for most people, 160GB is overkill. Just like a quad-core i7 MacBook Pro is overkill for the average consumer, who just wants to check websites, emails, Facebook, use Office, maybe use iLife or Photoshop a bit.

    They’ll buy it because it’s a Mac, and want a Mac. Half of people buying Macs are buying their first, and there is quite a lot of people who will buy them without any idea of what “Core i7” means. They just want a good computer and trust Apple. Right now, the MBP kind of has the “default Mac” status. Apple’s efforts seem to be to change that.

    Notice how they made a lot of advertising around the MacBook Air, while this MBP refresh has almost been silent. The Air stayed on’s frontpage for months, until this week in fact, with the highly noticeable, contrasting black background. Apple doesn’t release sale numbers for specific Mac models, but working for an Apple reseller myself, I can tell you that sales of the MacBook Air are nothing compared to the Pro. Then why would they waste their time advertising a product that's so unpopular? Because that makes them in total control of what's happening next.


    By “The next generation of MacBooks”, Apple didn’t mean the Air would influence the Pro. They meant it would replace its position as the mass market Mac. The MacBook Pro will keep getting more "Pro" until it's no longer competing as much with the Air, just like the iPod Classic and Mac Pro, it will have its own market. The Air got the new SSD standard first. The high-resolution screen standard first. What’s next? It’s the Air that’s getting the bells and whistles, and it won’t stop. It’s getting featured in all new Apple promotional material, such as the Mac App Store and OS X Lion pictures. I’m starting to think that the MacBook Pro I was dreaming about last week will in fact come to life, just not with the “Pro” name attached to it. High-res 15”, Core i5, superdrive-less, all-SSD, Thunderbolt-equipped MBA at an affordable price sounds like the future to me.

    And the white MacBook? I guess it will take the path of the Nano and stay the cute and affordable way to get into the family.
  2. devilstrider macrumors 6502a

    May 12, 2010
    I do not look forward to Lion. Don't want my Mac looking like a iPad.
  3. JTToft macrumors 68040

    Apr 27, 2010
    Aarhus, Denmark
    - Then don't upgrade...
  4. ChronoIMG, Feb 25, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2011

    ChronoIMG macrumors regular


    Sep 11, 2003
    San Francisco, CA
    Zomg, I totally do. That could forgo my "desire" to own an iPad because the only thing I'd do with it is do what I do with my superior MacBook Pro. I love the iOS interface for applications and would dig that on a 15" High Res display.

  5. v66jack macrumors 6502a


    May 20, 2009
    London, UK
    I feel similar, I'm not sure that iPad style system would work on a mac, I think I will have the features there and probably wont use them.

    But I will try it out, and probably quite like it.
  6. Iphone3gs macrumors 6502

    Jun 10, 2009
    Excellent read..I enjoyed that it's mainly true...

    I was thinking also MBP will start having similar shape to MBA And similar features then put the MBA obsolete

    Now this may not be the case
  7. ddoolin0 macrumors regular

    Feb 24, 2011
    It does seem like all their notebooks are on the brink of converging.

    Good read.
  8. hfletcher macrumors 6502


    Oct 10, 2008
    Good mini-article(!). Though I'm not quite sure what conclusion you came to? I guess it's good that the MBP's are getting much better specs than they used to, but then I think apple operate a tick-tick-tock like cycle, where there are a number of speed bumps and then physical hardware changes every few years. Think Powerbook G4. That shape stayed all the way until the 2008 Macbook Pros.
    Though personally it would have been nice to see some design changes to the Pro. I don't think the MBA can quite fill the void yet, as it's still quite pricey for what you get in terms of specs. But then do normal consumers really care about these? I guess not so much as us ;)
  9. Funkymonk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2011
    I'm not happy with the refresh but I was really impressed that apple decided to skip the i3 all together. I hope this means the airs will soon have standard i5 as well!
  10. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Everything can be summed up elegantly like this:

    Shift to Flash storage, optical drives will RIP, and the MBA 13 will consolidate with the MBP 13.

    That's the future for macbooks. Anyone with a basic understanding of business would know that this refresh was not going to accomplish that without skyrocketing prices. I don't understand how people are disappointed with how the MBP turned out.
  11. pgiguere1 thread starter macrumors 68020


    May 28, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    True. People would have cried even more if they released actual MacBooks of the future now, for 3-4k$. New technology just isn't cheap. Best you can have at an affordable price is the current MBA. If the specs don't suit you, you could always build a custom MBP and regret spending so much money when that stuff will be mass produced and come standard at a reasonable price next year.

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