Will Apple merge the MacBook Air & MacBook Pro lines into one in the next 5 years?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Carl Sagan, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. MacDawg macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    5 years is a long time and we are likely to see something totally different
  2. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Maybe. Who cares? By then we'll have something totally different. Five years ago I would not have predicted that I'd have an Air, an iPad, and an iPhone. They didn't exist or were impractical for me at the time. Now, they are integrated into my life, and I would be at a loss without them. Apple's 2017 cortical implant will probably replace my iPhone :)
  3. idunn macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2008
    MBP as Air

    In five years, and even before, there is a good chance the MacBook Air and Pro lines will merge.

    It has already begun in earnest with the new 15" MBP retina model. Its slimness is a nod to the far more svelte design of the Air, but that most decisive are the similar internal features. The direction is clear: non-upgradeable and soldiered in components, SSD, no optical drives, retina displays, lighter weights. The biggest current limitation is battery technology; when this changes look for a rapid change.

    Apple basically shorted the mildly updated 13" MBP, leaving it and its standard 15" cousin as legacy models, very much as it did with the MacBook before further downgrading it to only student purchases. These serve as something safe and known for those desiring that, with Apple able to hedge its bets. But it is aggressively marketing the 15" MBP retina, and should it prove as popular as it hopes then surely the direction of all their future laptops.

    Where the Air comes into this equation is having served as the pace setter for new technologies, and also how a laptop might be used in future. Steve Jobs said as much in pointing to the Air as the future. Yes, it has never been allowed the same similar power as the Pro models, but at this point is more capable than 13" Pro models of even a year ago. The expectation is that one will rely far more on services such as iCloud, and with wi-fi, and OSX adopting features of the iOS, less need of various ports, mobility becoming more important.

    Hopefully at the time of a full merge, or before, Apple will adopt the elegant tapered design of the Air in influencing the entire laptop line. Until batteries can be significantly downsized, as well some help in all electronics running cooler, more powerful models might have to be somewhat bulkier than the current Air, if appearing similar.

    So rather than separate Air and Pro lines, it may make more sense to merge them simply as 11", 13" and 15" MacBook models, all appearing similar, but those more powerful in each size category being necessarily somewhat bulkier. And, hopefully, again the option of the entire unit in black (if at a bare minimum at least the bezel).

    Look to the new 15" MBP retina as the future, and it having been heavily influenced by the Air.
  4. doitdada, Feb 1, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016

    doitdada macrumors 6502a


    Oct 14, 2013
    I think laptops and certainly desktops will be a ancient artefacts within a few generations. Just saw this video about a wizkid who does all his stocks on his iPhone. I prefer desktops and 30 inch screens, because I grew up with it, but I believe younger people will prefer phones and pads more. Computers with inputs such as mouse and keyboard will exist in enterprise for a long long time. All data is manifesting a radical decline in the need for legacy computers. Younger generations without preferences will utilise new technology more rapid and effective than you will ever have the chance to imagine.

    I feel the Air is no longer needed, at least if you are not trying to bargain any value out of your purchase. The retina 12 is adequate for most tasks, and if you need the power, then go for the Pro. Video and heavy development will need more screen estate as well. I think clever GUIs and handy gestures will eliminate bigger devices more and more. Large chunks of code, multiple windows and audio/video are the only tasks that really need the power and form factor of a laptop/desktop.

  5. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Sorry but the Air is probably on its way out; you won't see a "merging" of the Air and Pro. Apple hasn't redesigned the Air chassis, and instead came out with the all new MacBook last year which is most likely the Air's replacement. The Air might get a Skylake update for its swan song at most, and then Apple will keep it on as a low end seller for another year or so while the Pro gets a redesign (if not this year than certainly in 2017). I think the future of Apple's laptop lineup is simpler than today's: MacBooks for the consumer (email/web surfing/microsoft office/etc.) and MacBook Pros for heavier lifting (video/photo editing, etc.).
  6. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Part of the answer is technological, part is marketing.

    Currently, there's still a distinction between low-power consumption CPUs and higher-processing power CPUs. If that distinction disappears within the next 5 years, then we might see a single laptop line with a range of CPU and GPU options - a simplification of offerings, as we may no longer need different-sized cases to hold different-sized batteries.

    If this was the "traditional" Apple, I'd expect Air to make a graceful exit soon, in favor of an expanded 12" (and perhaps 14") Retina MacBook line. Three lines of laptop seems excessive by historic standards.

    But... here's where the market comes in. Apple continues to gain share in the shrinking PC market. A bit of product line diversification probably speaks well to the traditional PC buyer, who is used to having many choices. If choice of vendors narrows (as is expected) then the remaining vendors all have motive to field additional model lines in order to fill or compete in niches formerly occupied by defunct competitors. The distinctions may seem slender to none from a technological standpoint, but there's long been a place in the computer market for a spartan-looking budget model, a somewhat sexier but sensible-and-capable student model, and a no-holds-barred power user/luxury model. If it's to Apple's benefit to have three or even five lines of laptops, I think they'd do it.

    I'm not ignoring the role iPad may play in all this. It's just hard to know whether the distinction between iOS and OS X will have become so blurred by then (thanks to cross-platform development tools like Swift) that choice of apps and app compatibility fade as major decision points. Then, the choice of UI becomes more akin to the laptop vs. desktop decision than one of fundamental capability. Apple could field ten product lines in the combined laptop/tablet market and still find ways to distinguish among them. It's not likely you would find all ten at any one retailer (other than an Apple Retail Store) - retailers will choose those lines they know they can sell best to their customer base.

    But of course, we're talking about the unknowable future. In another few years, Siri may be good enough to eliminate need for either a physical or virtual keyboard. We might see a line of voiceOS/vrOS products alongside iOS and OS X...
  7. kiranmk2 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 4, 2008
    The Pro will likely become more Air-like (thinner/wedged), and the Air will likely disappear. Would this mean they have merged? Again, it's down to MArketing whether Apple say it's a merging or just the the Pro is getting thinner whilst maintaining the power.
  8. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Good post but Apple typically avoids filling every niche they can think of. Look no further than Apple lineup of iPhones compared to Samsung's. That's not to say they can't or won't do it, but it goes against their history of simplifying the choice for typical consumer that just wants something to work and need to spend hours and hours educating themselves on what to buy.
  9. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Normally I'd agree. I'm just suggesting that history may not apply, due to changing conditions in the marketplace. And while Apple is not nearly as extreme about it as Sammy, in iPhone and iPad they're not that far off these days. You can still get the iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus in the US, and can get even older models in some overseas markets. You can get the iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad Pro directly from Apple.

    Also, a factor I refrained from including in my previous analysis... the strategy of simplifying choice works great when you're the outsider - it's part of playing the role of the alternative. People understand that "smaller" may mean offering fewer models. That's a harder tack to take when you're king of the hill. Growth may be hard to come by unless you do things like plug the remaining niches.
  10. cincygolfgrrl, Feb 2, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016

    cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502


    Apr 2, 2012
    Somewhere In Time
    Apple builds products for specific markets. Just about anyone who hangs out in the MacRumors forums is a hobbiest or a pro. We want every product Apple releases to fit our specific needs. But it ain't gonna happen, girls and boys. Apple is a consumer products company that builds computers that professionals and average folks want to use. It looks for niche markets, very large niche markets.

    • The Mac Pro is targeted toward very high-end, professional video production, and the like. Apps requiring multi-core processes are its sweet spot.

    • The iMac has some of the capabilities, but is geared towards less demanding activities than the Pro. It will run most of the same multi-core apps as the Pro, just slower. The iMac is also a highly prized high-end consumer machine.

    • The MacBook Pro (retina) is the portable equivalent of the iMac, without the screen real estate. The 15" is a brute to lug around, but it comes with the best processor Apple can get into it. Computer pros who make their living on-the-go swear by its capabilities and swear at its weight. The 13" MBP is the compromise computer. It has most of the capabilities of the 15", but it's easier to lug around.

    • The MacBook Air is the perfect content provider/consumer laptop. It's highly portable; it has excellent capabilities for anyone who isn't a power user, and even some who are. The 13" MBA really is the best computer in the world, for most people.

    • The MacBook. Apple released a new, small, most portable laptop ever last year. It's underpowered, has only one port, and a retina display. The MacBook is the future of non-tablet personal computing.

    So, will the MBP and the MBA merge? Probably not. The rMB will become more powerful, and maybe grow in physical size. The MacBook Air will disappear, if not this year then shortly thereafter. The MacBook Pro will continue to evolve — it fills an important niche. Apple will probably put effort into making it easier to carry, but not at the cost of performance — it's a Pro machine. People make their living lugging it to work each day, some from client to client.

    Eventually these markets will change. I'm not prescient enough to know what they'll become. Apple is working on it.
  11. Bars_12 macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2016
    Do you think apple will upgrade the internal specs of the MBA(processor,force touch,NVMe etc..) this year?
  12. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502


    Apr 2, 2012
    Somewhere In Time
    It's only my opinion but probably not. The rMB and the MBA fill the same niche—content creators and average consumers. As much as we love our MacBook Airs, we'll eventually have to move on. When we do we'll wonder why we held onto the past for so long.
  13. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Unlikely, unless there's a minor processor bump or change in the default configurations. The classic air is more likely to go the way of the 13" nonretina MBP - kept around as an entry-level option until the price of the rMB drops (remember when the Air was an expensive executive toy with only one USB port?)

    Everything is in a mess because of the delays at Intel, but a line up of:

    12" retina MacBook (version 2 with a price cut/spec increase)
    13" retina MacBook <something> (slightly slimmer than the current 13" rMBP)
    15" retina MacBook Pro (with quad core and discrete graphics options)

    ...seems eminently sensible, where <something> could be "Air", "Pro", "Deluxe", "TurbonutterSuperPlus" or "Lisa" depending on what the marketing team are smoking when they choose the name.

    Thing is, the 13" rMBP is already a better buy if you need anything more than the entry-level 13" Air, even disregarding the screen - its why a retina Air didn't make sense. With Skylake they could shave a few ounces and mm off the rMBP13: the smaller TB3/USBC connectors and the 'layered' battery tech used in the MacBook should let them put it in an air-like tapered case. When that happens, the existing 13" Air is squeezed out.

    I'd like to think that the 15" rMBP would be kept the same size and powered-up. Fat chance.
  14. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    Gosh, I hope not.

    The Air is the perfect laptop as it is; I hope they leave it be except for component upgrades. The Retina MacBook is great for entry-level stuff, the Air is phenomenal for intermediate and mobile working, and the MBP is great if you max it out as a desktop replacement.

    The Air has a good place in the lineup; the Retina, not so much (based on price). If they merged the Air into the MBP and the performance or battery life suffered I'd be unhappy. Not like that means much, but since we are having an opinion-based discussion.... :)
  15. LudicrousLampost macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2016
    They never will.
    A macbook air is totally and utterly incapable of handling very demanding tasks and work projects. It can hang for 10 seconds (every minute) whilst trying to do things in 2D, of an intensive professional nature. It is totally unsuited to VERY demanding tasks.

    A MacbookPro on the other hand, is built to handle VERY demanding tasks. So the two are not even in competition with one another.

    Its almost like saying, will the middle end of the range desktop computer eventually be merged with the very high end machines?

    No. Never. For as long as people have different needs, and different budgets, the two products will never become competitors.

    We may see features, styling and other hardware similarities, but the two will never "merge" that there is not the option to buy the one type of computer over the other.
  16. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    Exactly - that's the point I was trying to make.

    But your definition of "Work" needs some redefining. Not all work is centered around 3D modeling. I do print-res graphics regularly and my Air doesn't stutter at all, and it's my main machine for my regular workflow which is backend programming for websites and web-based software...and I've never had so much as a hiccup. Heavy work, no - it's not built to handle it. By the same token, if you're looking for a heavy work machine, you aren't well served getting ANY laptop.

    For light to medium work environments, the Air has excelled for me.

  17. LudicrousLampost macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2016
    To clarify then.
    2D work.
    One file, many many layers.
    Machine is 2 years old and with every unused app, all browsers and mail shut down, the machine limps badly editing this one file.

    There are over 100 images/layers in the file, some big, most small. That is why the MacBook Pro will never be "merged" - this machine was not bought for the task required and is totally unsuitable for serious home design work. Works superbly for other stuff.

    I can't imagine a real pro wanting to touch anything for work other than a MacBook Pro.
  18. SmOgER, Mar 7, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016

    SmOgER macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2014
    I'am sorry but there is no niche to be filled with smartphones other than the rumored all new 4-inch iPhone.
    Samsung went with more models than they can handle.

    But with lapotps, it only makes sense for Apple to have a 1) fancy show-off netbook, 2) an ultrabook and 3) professional laptop. If you take anything away you will lose in just about every way imaginable and won't really gain anything as a brand.

    And I don't see a rMB transforming to an ultrabook and at the same time dropping the price to MBA levels anytime soon.

    Just like merging rMB and MBA doesn't make much sense to me. This would mean that they are either losing on profit or losing the market share.

    What I do see as more likely than any of the above is rMBA starting at $1199 which would be a standard 13" MBA with the retina screen assembly (no force trackpad etc).
  19. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Not sure what you're saying here, but it sounds like you are affirming the point I was making.

    Ok, that's your opinion, but give a reason as to why.

    Nonsense: you could trim $200 easily with a 4GB/128GB model in Gen 2. And given Apple's propensity to drop prices on succeeding models of a new product, they may drop it another $100 so the current 12" rMB starts at $1199 (inferring a budget model would come in at $999).

    Good luck with that: as stated many times before, a retina MBA with similar battery life to the current models would require a much larger battery, making it nearly as large, or as large, as the current 13" MBP. Further, performance between the two would be minimal, and only cause more consumer analysis paralysis as they try to figure out which model to buy.
  20. SmOgER macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2014
    They would need to not ony drop at least $300 but also make it more powerful (install a fan??). Both of these things at the same time are very unlikely to happen.

    Let the customers choose between a battery life and retina screen. rMBA would have like what, 9 hours of battery life? Which in my book is still plenty enough. And we've come to a point, where standard intel graphics that will come with skylake will be more than enough to handle such resolution (no need to bump the specs to rMBP teritory).

    Yes, performance difference between rMBP and rMBA won't be extremely big, but I don't exactly see that as a problem. Apple could also simply make i7 CPUs exclusive for rMBP and continue to offer MBA only in 4/8GB configurations. Either way, there are plenty of people who will happily pay $1199 for rMBA as well as those who'll remain truthful to rMBP. You buy one as a very much portable ultrabook and another one for extra features and performance ("normal" laptop).
  21. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    That IS the problem. Apple doesn't blur product lines, especially with computers, historically speaking. Again, a proposed rMBA and rMBP would be fairly close in performance, and Apple hasn't done that ever since Jobs' return in 1997.
  22. SmOgER, Mar 8, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016

    SmOgER macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2014
    MBA doesn't come with 16GB 1866 RAM or 1TB SSD and it doesn't have HD6100 or force trackpad. rMBA would also have a worse battery life than rMBP. Futhermore, like I said Apple could spec it exclusively with i5 by saying that i7 paired with retina would mean too high of an power consumption (bad battery life) for MBA.

    Is that enough of a gap for you?

    It could easily be futhermore widened by adding new potential features exlusively to rMBP at the same time (fingerprint scanner, NFC, GPS, audiophile grade DAC and amp, water resistance (somewhat), new chassis color options, exclusive firmware features for security/encryption etc...).
  23. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Last post on this topic.

    The "gap", as you call it, does not matter to me, it matters to Apple, and their history is one of keeping relatively large gaps between computer lines. The closest any two lines came to each other that I can think of over the last decade would be the aluminum Macbook and MBP in 2009, and the aluminum Macbook was discontinued shortly thereafter. You can speculate as much as you like about what Apple might do (as I quoted you above), but Apple does not show any history of doing this.
  24. dogslobber macrumors 68040


    Oct 19, 2014
    Apple Campus, Cupertino CA
    I'd doubt it.

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