Opinion: The immediate future of the MacBook (Pro)

While introducing the new MacBook on monday, Apple also introduced some key new technologies: First, USB type C may be indeed the one connector “to rule them all”.  Second: the Force Touch Trackpad. Third: A new (butterfly-mechanism) keyboard. Fourth: Broadwell processors.

We also saw a new MacBook Pro 13” with Retina display, and updated MacBook Airs. The question as to why no new MacBook Pro 15” has been released is an easy one: There’s nothing new to release it with, Broadwell processors suited for a MacBook Pro 15” will be released at the end of the second quarter. Maybe most notably, the old MacBook Pro 13” without Retina display is still available — and it’s the exact same model that was released almost three years ago. Now, we have Apple selling four different laptop models — MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro with and without Retina display.

 

The question is: Will it stay this way? As has been speculated in the past few days, I also expect the MacBook Air to disappear sometime in the future. MacBook and MacBook Air have the same reasons to live; And once Core M processors become powerful enough, the MacBook Air will vanish. It may stay for some years as the MacBook Pro 13” without Retina display does still. But it will disappear.

I’m guessing for a MacBook with a 14” display. It could be more powerful than the 12” model, and for many people 12” will be just too small. Also, an even longer battery runtime could make this a 12-14h MacBook, allowing for usage on transcontinental flights.

The MacBook Pro. I’m guessing for a huge update later this year, to implement the new technologies we saw in the MacBook. Apple could wait for Skylake processors, as they should be available in the third quarter. It will incorporate the Force Touch Trackpad, the butterfly-mechanism keyboard (but maybe in a different iteration, as current MacBook Pro / MacBook Air keyboards also differ slightly), maybe even some long speculated features such as Touch ID. I’m also guessing for a redesign, probably a little thinner and lighter. But what about USB type C, MagSafe, and Thunderbolt?

 

In my opinion, the MacBook Pro will not be a single-port machine, as it would make no sense to do so. Because of the more powerful technology, the MacBook Pro will never be as thin as the MacBook, so there will be room for ports; And Apple’s dedication for professionals may be in question, but the Mac Pro exists for a reason. And for the same reason, the MacBook Pro will keep most of it’s ports. It will get USB type C, though. Imagine a Cinema Display with integrated power supply, USB hub, and so on, which can be connected with one wire: The transition from mobile to a full flexed stationary working place would be really easy. And, because USB type C relies on open standards, we probably won’t even have to spend a thousand bucks on it, as Dell ore any other company could create similar devices.

This is a problem for Thunderbolt. For most people. USB type C does exactly what Apple wanted Thunderbolt to be: As universal as possible. But to be universal, a connector has to be compatible to as many devices as possible, and this, Thunderbolt is not. But it has some major advantages over USB type C: Mostly, PCI-Express compatibility. Thunderbolt is Apple’s answer to speccing-up a device. You even can add external graphics cards to a laptop, and this is not possible with USB type C. So my guess is: Thunderbolt will stay in the Pro series, but USB type C will be added. Maybe the MacBook Pro will lose one Thunderbolt port, or MagSafe, and instead add one to three USB type C ports.

There are other questions here, too. Will the MacBook Pro get an increase in display resolution? Probably not, but possible. Will the 15-inch-model lose it’s dedicated graphics processor? I hope not. Will the storage space start at 256GB (as with the new MacBook) instead of 128GB? Probably. Will the 15-inch-model also get faster storage? Of course. Will the MacBook Pro be fanless, too? No. Oh, and will the non-Retina MacBook Pro be discontinued? I would say yes, as the MacBook Air will soon be the almost-dead MacBook model, and four different lines of laptops is just too much for Apple.

In my conclusion, Apple’s laptop lineup will look as follows, probably at the end of this year:

  • MacBook 12”: Spec-bumped with Skylake.
  • MacBook 14”: Almost identical to the 12”-model, but slightly faster processors, and slightly longer battery life.
  • MacBook Pro 13”: Slightly redesigned (thinner), USB C, butterfly-mechanism-keyboard, Skylake. 256GB storage in the entry model.
  • MacBook Pro 15”: Slightly redesigned (thinner), USB C, Force Touch Trackpad, butterfly-mechanism-keyboard, Skylake processors, new graphics processor in the top model (probably Nvidia GeForce 920M).

Comments

  1. Rhys Morgan - 8 years ago

    On the whole, I can see where you’re coming from and agree with many of these.
    But I have to disagree with the choice of GPU on the top-end MacBook Pro 15″. There’d be very little point putting in such a weak GPU when Intel’s iGPUs would as good, or at least /almost/ as good.
    Much more likely would be a current-generation equivalent of the Nvidia 750M – a powerful, but efficient, GPU.
    Honestly, I wish Apple would offer a dGPU option for the 13″ MBP as well. That would make it the absolute 100% perfect machine for me.

  2. Alex Lee - 8 years ago

    Add MacBook Pro 17″: DDR4 RAM, latest Pci-e flash storage(1-2TB), 4K display, USB C(designated for external superdrive use), 3 usb 3.0 ports, 2 thunderbolt ports, hdmi port, 2 audio jacks next to the left of express card slot, butterfly-mechanism-keyboard, quad core skylake processors, 2GB graphics processor like Nvidia GeForce 920M along with intel graphics(1GB).

  3. Hussain Al-Khalaf - 8 years ago

    I’m really waiting for the updated 15″ MBP, looking for Skylake CPU, regarding the ports, I would love to have Type-C + Type-A in both sides ( left and right ), and HDMI + Thunderbolt in one side, SD card reader and audio port in the other side…

    having 1x Type-C + Type-A in each side is very helpful, as you will be able to connect the charger ( using Type-C ) in any side you like ( in a table on a restaurant, hook it to the wall side )… the same goes for Type-A port, we can put the flash/external HDD on the preferred side we want.

    HDMI and Thunderbolt in most cases are not that much used compared to USB, so having them in one side is okay…

  4. E. Rasmussen (@h8rboi) - 8 years ago

    I largely agree with these predictions, but I think we’ll eventually see the Macbook Pros shift to 14- and 16-inch models, at about the same footprint of the current 13- and 15-inch models, respectively. Just because the Pro models don’t call for fanless design, ultra-thinness and segmented batteries, it doesn’t mean that its market segment couldn’t use the extra screen area – even less so than the people that don’t buy Pro models, I would think. And seriously, a Macbook Pro with a 16-inch screen. I never used one, but it would be almost like a revival of the 17-inch Pro, wouldn’t it?

    At any rate, the next Macbook Pros will most likely not be released until they can include TB3 ports along with TB2 ones, to ease the transition to the thinner connector. TB certainly isn’t going anywhere on the Pro line. I’m willing to bet that a 14-inch Macbook won’t be released without a TB3 port, either – a 14-inch Apple laptop warrants TB expansion, but the New Macbooks still need dat thinness.

    Bottom line is it all depends on Skylake.

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