Apple’s 2007 Lineup: The Excitement Underwhelms

May 15th, 2007

In keeping with predictions from the Mac rumor sites, Apple finally delivered its first Mac upgrade for 2007, a minor speed bump and feature enhancement for the best-selling MacBook line.

To be sure, the improvements, through modest, were nonetheless welcome. For example, processor speed is now boosted to 2GHz and 2.16GHz, hard drives are beefier and the standard RAM allotment is enhanced to 1GB from 512MB, which will certainly allow the computers to shine. In addition, the AirPort Extreme module ships with the 802.11n feature activated, so you don’t have to pay $1.99 for the update or buy a new AirPort Extreme base station.

Missing in action, though, is Intel’s new Santa Rosa chipset, which also includes superior onboard graphics. As it is, the MacBook is fine for digital video and so on and so forth, but not so great for gamers. And, of course, there’s no display with LED backlighting, which is something Steve Jobs promised is in the works in his recent statement about Apple’s carbon-friendly commitments.

I suppose it’s possible that the MacBook Pro is due for a near-term upgrade that will indeed incorporate such advances, although I have a feeling you won’t see it until Steve Jobs delivers his WWDC keynote on June 11th. In addition to the unveiling of the final Leopard feature-set, I would expect that professional Macs would be showcased there as well.

I could, of course, be totally wrong. Maybe the hardware updates will simply be doled out gradually before or after the big event.

You see, so far at least, the changes we’ve sen in Mac hardware this year haven’t set the world afire. I suppose you could say that the new AirPort Extreme is significant because of its support for the faster Wi-Fi standard, the additional Ethernet ports and the USB network drives capability. But I don’t regard that as particularly major either.

I suppose if you want to be technical and all, it might be said that the Apple TV and the iPhone are both Macs, since they use a slimmed down OS X. Indeed, the latter does strike me as a handheld computer more than a phone, although the makers of so-called smart phones really don’t want us to believe that the iPhone represents any real competition to their market. They forget, however, that this is a 1.0 product, and that more features can be added via a software update to improve email, add additional applications and other enhancements.

Other than the iPhone, which doesn’t excite me but excites lots of others, I am not bowled over by Apple’s hardware announcements so far this year. Considering that the Mac is holding its own and then some in spite of the arrival of a new operating system from Microsoft, you’d think Apple would rather not rest on its laurels and just keep pouring out the updates as quickly as new chips are available from Intel.

The Mac Pro is another example. At long last, Adobe releases its new Universal creative applications, which is sure to spur sales of Apple’s high-end desktops. But the only change so far has been an option to add a special 3GHz Intel Xeon processor with eight cores. As exciting as that may seem, the load of money you pay for the new chips will probably have little or no impact unless you own one of the handful of applications that are really designed to take advantage of such power.

Sure, Mac OS X Leopard will likely make it easier for application developers to use eight-core processors, but that’s been postponed until fall. No instant gratification there.

So where will Apple go from here?

Well, there are still rumors afoot about a slim and light note-book, one that weighs maybe three or four pounds, contains onboard Flash memory for faster boot times, and possibly lacks of a built-in optical drive. But how many Mac users are clamoring for such a gadget?

By fall, there may be a new iMac form factor. Or maybe just a speed bump in the same old case. It’s really hard to tell.

When it comes to the iPod, is there a 6G version with touch screen in our future? Some claim it’s ready now, but Apple is holding it back so as not to take attention away from the iPhone. Once that product ships in volume, the new iPod will appear right behind it. So get your cleaning cloths ready, because those screens will dirty up fast.

But right now, as far as new Apple hardware is concerned, I might as well go back to sleep. Let me know when the drought is over.

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5 Responses to “Apple’s 2007 Lineup: The Excitement Underwhelms”

  1. Dana Sutton says:

    Yes, the current Apple lineup is getting a bit long in the tooth. But what is Apple supposed to do, until Intel comes up with a new generation of processors? That’s one of the problems of being Apple — you’re always being held hostage by whoever is supplying your processors at the moment, and to a large extent they, not you, dictate the tempo with which you can put out new Macs or even speedbump your current ones. Of course, Apple could do some things to add a touch of extra glitz to the current line up (for ex., they could add a SATA port to the Mac Pro) but they probably think it’s better marketing strategy to hold off stuff like this until the next major release.

  2. steve says:

    ACTUALLY, Apple released its SECOND Mac upgrade of 2007. The first being the 8-core Mac Pro’s last month…

  3. ACTUALLY, Apple released its SECOND Mac upgrade of 2007. The first being the 8-core Mac Pro’s last month…

    It was just an additional option for custom ordering, actually. The single standard configuration remains unchanged.


  4. Greg says:

    I agree, the hardware lineup this year is very underwhelming. In particular the Mac Pro is in need of some attention. For a desktop with as much power as the Mac Pro, it is handicaped by the lack of updates such as graphic cards. This would be an awesome machine for gaming if Apple could implement a graphic card update in a reasonable amount of time, instead of always using the last generation video cards. And what about supporting Crossfire or sli? The current Mac Pro hardware could do it, if it was enabled. Sigh…..zzzzzzzzzzz.

  5. Perry Lund says:

    Ahhh, power users we be and looking for the next power toy has eluded us in 2007. With Apple’s focus somewhat tainted towards the consumer product market with iPods and iPhones, it seems perhaps that less attention is being paid to the ‘computer side’ of the business. There is still time for 2007 to shine; we just have to be patient.

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