Apple’s Shock MacBook Pro Decision
They’ve been up in lights, they’ve sat at the bleeding edge for the last two years, and they have upended the laptop computing market. Yet Apple looks set to make the shock decision to hide the new MacBook Pro laptops from the market and skip a signature launch event.
Mark Gurman reports on the potential of Apple sending the MacBooks “straight to press release” territory:
“None of these new products is a major departure for Apple. They’ll get some improved specifications and a chip that was already announced at a formal event in June at WWDC 2022. That has me thinking: Does Apple really have enough here to make it worth pulling together another highly polished launch event?”
How much a shock is this decision? Why would Apple decide this is the best route to launch the new machines? And what does it say about the new role of the Mac platform in Apple’s portfolio?
There are a raft of obvious arguments for holding a launch event for a new product, so let’s assume they are already on the balance sheet. But I want to pick out three of those that I feel are the most important.
First is the importance of the mac Pro. While this ridiculously powerful desktop will have relatively small sales compared to the consumer hardware, it is a totemic product. It’s the top of the range; it is the ultimate expression of what the Mac platform can offer.
It’s also the only Mac that has not yet made the switch away from Intel technology to the ARM-based Apple Silicon. This is important because Tim Cook set a deadline of the end of 2022 to switch all of the new Macs over to Apple Silicon. With a launch event, this would be a huge moment of celebration.
It’s also the run-up to the holiday season and a chance to talk more about the Mac platform as a whole to boost awareness of the new hardware as well as reinforcing the existing machines.
Speaking of awareness, there’s always the opportunity to reinforce the iPhone message. One month after the launch of the new smartphones, a chance to speak to all of the tech media once more to reiterate satisfaction, sales, and storylines is there.
On the other side are the arguments to go down the route suggested by Gurman’s newsletter… to go with a press release launch and a handful of units sent out for early review.
A look at the expected specifications of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops shows a Moore’s Law rise in terms of performance, storage, and memory, but in terms of new hardware features, the cupboard is relatively bare. That’s backed up by the minimal changes in both the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro from the M1 to the M2 chipsets. The updates to the new MacBook Pro laptops feel like the traditional ’S’ upgrade as seen in older iPhones.
Given that the message would be “it’s a little bit better, and you’ll still win out in Specifications Top Trumps,” is that enough of a “wow” that needs a full launch? The story around Apple Silicon – that it delivers more power – is already established.
Does Apple want to create more than one moment in the year when it releases a second wave of MacBooks? Given that the late-October early-November window has been a traditional spot for MacOS laptops to be launched, alongside Apple’s love of annual updates on the iPhone and iPad, would it not want the same for the MacBook? Perhaps… But we did get a relatively significant amount of WWDC dedicated to the M2 chip and both the M2-powered MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. Why repeat the moment?
And there’s the knowledge that any launch is going to be covered extensively online no matter the case. A launch isn’t primarily for those in the tech press, it’s for a more mainstream audience. That suits the iPhone, and arguably suits the consumer-focused MacBook laptops.
But for the more powerful machines on offer this month that are targeting developers, high-end creatives, and those in the need of the sort of performance that is far more than ‘can it edit my family photos’, is there a need for saturation mainstream coverage? Would the tech press and the knowledge that the new machines out there be enough?
For the last two years, Apple has given the Mac platform more prominence in its marketing and messaging. Now the move from Intel to ARM is complete, now that the product line can settle down again, now all the promises around minimizing disruption have been made, the Mac platform can go back to its role supporting the iPhone and iPad.
That just needs a press release.