2020 MacBook Air with M1 chip
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple is holding a launch event on Monday to announce new products like a redesigned MacBook Pro.
Apple has a chance to get its Macs going before the holiday season, especially as it is expected to announce more computers that run on their own chips instead of Intel’s processors.
New computers running on the company’s powerful M1 processor have “propelled” Mac growth, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in June. In the last three quarters that ended in June 2021, Apple sold $ 26 billion worth of Macs, nearly 33% more than the $ 19.59 billion sold in the same period last year. “In fact, the last three quarters have been the three best quarters ever for Mac,” Cook said in June.
Before the pandemic that spurred sales of new computers, many customers and analysts feared Apple was neglecting the Mac in favor of newer, faster-growing companies like its Apple Watch and iPhones. But Mac computers remain essential to Apple. For example, it’s only possible to develop iPhone apps on a Mac through Apple’s Xcode software, and Mac remains a bigger company than the iPad.
Last month, Apple announced and subsequently released new iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches, leaving Apple’s Mac line to be the remaining main line of products that was not updated this fall. The larger 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s high-end laptop, hasn’t been updated since 2019 and currently uses Intel processors instead of newer Apple chips.
This is what awaits you on Monday.
A completed transition
When Apple announces new MacBook laptops on Monday, it will be the culmination of a two-year transition to completely redesign the entire Mac lineup.
Since 2019, Apple has been replacing Intel processors in Macs with its own processors called M1, which offer longer battery life and enable Apple to integrate its hardware and software more closely. Apple’s chips also enable new functions and still offer enough performance to run demanding applications.
So far, Apple has released four different Macs with its new chips: the MacBook Air, the Mac Mini, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the redesigned 24-inch iMac.
Apple is likely to highlight the benefits of its own chip, as it has done at recent Mac launch events. Expect a new name for the M1 chip when Apple makes significant performance improvements. It could be named M1X or M2 depending on how Apple plans to market the processor improvements.
Apple has reportedly prepared a redesign for its high-end MacBook Pros with its own chips and new ports, including space for an HDMI cable to connect the laptop to monitors and a magnetic charger, according to Bloomberg. Also in the works is an iMac with a larger screen and a Mac Mini Desktop with more power, the report says.
On Monday, Apple is also expected to announce a release date for macOS Monterey, the latest version of Mac software that was announced in June but not yet officially released.
Touch Bar on the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple’s Mac growth was also driven by changes the company made to address some long-standing consumer issues with some products.
Between late 2017 and the second quarter of fiscal 2020, Apple reported flat or negative annual growth for its Mac business for eight out of ten quarters. The growth started in 2020.
In 2015, Apple introduced a thinner keyboard design for its laptops, often referred to as the “butterfly keyboard”. In the years to come, the thinner keyboard became the standard in Apple’s line of laptops.
But the keyboard has been plagued with reports that it was unreliable and that crumbs or dust could make certain keys “sticky” and fail to register certain letters or type them twice. Apple has an ongoing service program to repair faulty butterfly keyboards manufactured from 2015-2019 for free. It also threatens a class action lawsuit over whether it knew the keyboards were defective.
During this time, the biggest innovation in Apple’s laptops was the Touch Bar, a touch screen that replaced the function keys. However, many users found it frustrating and less useful than regular keys. Software developers never flocked to create software for the touchscreen, and Apple’s current M1 MacBook Air doesn’t have it.
At the same time, Apple has significantly reduced the number of ports on its laptops and bundled them into a few USB-C ports. Users complained that they needed adapters, often called dongles, to connect things like mice and external monitors to the laptops, which sometimes used older USB-A ports. The dongles made by Apple were expensive, often costing more than $ 20 per adapter. The company temporarily lowered adapter prices in 2016 after users complained.
That could change on Monday. Apple’s new MacBook Pro design could include an HDMI port for connecting the laptop to external monitors or televisions, an SD card port for photographers, and a new version of its MagSafe magnetic charger, which Bloomberg says addresses many complaints from professional users. Apple’s 2017 MacBook Air was the last laptop to feature MagSafe charging, although customers liked it.
Apple has started to reverse some of the Mac design choices it made over the past decade. The M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro now have a more traditional keyboard with deeper keys. Both computers have received positive reviews. The laptops still use USB-C ports for charging, but Apple’s new iMac desktop, the first redesign since 2015, features a new type of magnetic power supply.
An increase in PC sales
Apple iMac M1 2021
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple’s Mac business was boosted by a global surge in PC sales during the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools, businesses, and individuals bought new laptops and desktops for school or home work.
Earlier this year, at the height of PC sales (including Windows), saw the highest year-over-year growth in 20 years, according to research firm Gartner. Research firm IDC said PC sales in the first quarter were up 55% year over year. Analysts from the PC industry and component manufacturers expressed themselves optimistically at the time that there had been a permanent shift in PC sales trends.
But the pandemic-induced PC surge is coming to an end. In the third quarter, typically a boom due to back-to-school sales, the US PC market shrank for the first time since the first quarter of the pandemic, according to market researcher IDC.
Apple computer shipments rose 10% in the third quarter, according to IDC, but the pandemic trends that fueled all manufacturers appear to have slowed significantly. Before the pandemic, personal computers were one of the slowest growing technology markets, with several years of flat growth over the past decade.
Apple hopes shiny new Macs can defy this trend.