The Mac Hardware Report: No More Price Cuts for Now

July 2nd, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, Apple’s sales are on the rise, and the analysts are scrambling to figure out just what’s going on. Of course, the first theory is that it’s all resulting from the price reductions for most Mac portable computers at the WWDC, but that simply doesn’t wash.

You see, the sales bump actually began in May, ahead of the WWDC, when pretty much everyone didn’t expect any changes in the note-book lineup. Of course, if you factor in a free iPod touch, I suppose you can consider that a price cut too, but that’s the sort of promotion Apple has been running in previous years. It’s not something concocted at the last minute to stop hemorrhaging sales, although I’m sure the naysayers would prefer to think of it that way.

When it comes to the slightly-refreshed and cheaper MacBook Pro line, the changes mostly make sense. FireWire is restored on the 13 inch model, and the SD card slot seems a sensible alternative, unless you prefer ExpressCard/34. It just seems that Apple is never destined to get the ports precisely the way you want them. Forgetting the issue of price, frankly I think Apple should be working harder to pile them in as much as possible. A few more or less shouldn’t seriously impact production costs, and consider how this minimalist approach actually harms Mac users.

When it comes to the MacBook Air, the woeful lack of ports really doesn’t matter to me. I’m not in the market for one today, tomorrow or next year. I considered getting my son, Grayson, one for his May 2008 graduation, but he preferred the additional features on the black MacBook, which has traveled with him to nine countries so far without serious scuffing to the case.

But I will go against the grain and suggest the price cuts didn’t come suddenly out of the blue, and it may well be that the note-book update was pushed ahead a few months to further boost sales. That makes perfect sense, and it doesn’t necessarily smack of desperation. Apple has been far more aggressive in pricing than some would have you believe. Think about that the next time you see a $99 iPhone 3G at your neighborhood AT&T factory store.

Now I’m sure most of you will be watching Apple’s quarterly financials closely when the numbers are released later this month. The betting is that iPod sales are down. It would be truly amazing if they continued to increase, though you shouldn’t ignore the impact of the iPod touch. But if they dip, don’t be surprised to see some price reductions there. At the very least, the iPod touch will get larger flash drives, in proportion to the level of increase on the iPhone 3GS. In other words, twice as much.

The next Mac update will likely be the iMac, probably in October. The last product refresh, in March, resulted in essentially moving the line down a price notch. Where Apple might go from there is anyone’s guess. Whether the iMac will get a case redesign is questionable, though. No doubt there will speedier chips and all and larger hard drives, but I just wonder if Apple couldn’t fill another need, and that’s expandability. Just adding space for a second hard drive would perhaps address the concerns of some business users who can’t see spending extra for a Mac Pro.

My cloudy crystal ball can’t see where Apple might take the Mac mini. The recent changes didn’t involve a whole lot of R&D. It was all speed bump, and I wonder if that model is finally getting its due, or is still an unheralded hero in the personal computer space.

Apple sure likes the design, since they slimmed it down for the Apple TV, AirPort Express and Time Capsule. But I wonder what might happen if Apple decided to combine the Apple TV with the Mac mini and somehow make the latter more of a media center type of product. But there’s not a whole lot of evidence that such things really have much market potential, even though Microsoft still offers that capability in the most expensive versions of Windows.

But remember that few outside of Apple can truly comprehend what they’re really up to. Yes, most of the recent innovations have merely been clever slants on existing products. The iPod made the digital music player an icon, and the iPhone is on its way to doing the same thing with smartphones. Yes, you do read about iPhone killer products every few months, but when the new, highly touted Palm Pre sold a fraction of what the iPhone 3GS sold during its debut weekend, it’s quite clear that the word “killer” might be focused on the wrong product.

What’s more, while I once thought Apple was certain to make a grown-up iPhone or perhaps morph it into a sort of tablet computer, I’m less certain of that now. But I’m fully prepared for plenty of surprises from Apple in the months to come. Maybe Steve Jobs will even host the next press event for a change.

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4 Responses to “The Mac Hardware Report: No More Price Cuts for Now”

  1. Andrew says:

    Apple has always strictly controlled its pricing so as to entice buyers up to the next level when possible, but always providing an amazing experience even at the bottom. The recent price reductions and feature upgrades were just more of what Apple has always done.

    Every point in the lineup makes perfect sense, and while some might wish for something a little better, its always just a $200 stretch away.

  2. DaveD says:

    I just enjoy following Apple from news to rumors. An interesting, refreshing company that is truly innovative. I don’t follow Microsoft or Dell because they are just dull and besides, just wannabees. Oh yes, I wish I had bought Apple at $13 a share a long time ago. No guts, no glory.

    I remembered all the happenings like it was yesterday.

    When Apple opened their first retail store in May 2001.
    I said to myself “But, why???”
    When Apple brought out an MP3 player in November 2001.
    “But, why???”
    When Apple broke the rumor with a public statement that a plan is underway to move from the PowerPC to x86 in June 2005.
    “But, why???”
    When Apple introduced a cell phone in June 2007.
    “But, why???”

    My answers came as I watched Apple stock crossed the $100 mark and read about the “billions and billions” in the bank from the quarterly statements.

    I vividly recalled the “gigantic howl” when the iPhone was reduced by $200 in 2007? OK, maybe it was a bit soon after the introduction a few months back.

    It has been a heckuva decade for Apple. With six months to go, may we see an “xPad?”

  3. Looking forward to this quarter’s numbers.

  4. Richard says:

    Some professional photographers have excoriated Apple for removing the Express Card. It provides a path to eSATA connections for higher speed data transfers as well as for things that are not presently foreseen. They most assuredly do not want to lug around a 17 inch laptop in the field to gain this feature. Additionally, Apple have failed to offer the matte/non-glare screens (even as an option) that are simply essential to use in the field. (Yes, I have seen some of the shades that companies are offering for sale to try to make the screens viewable in less than perfect viewing conditions, but that is a matter of making lemonaide when….

    This is not very “Pro” at all.

    Oh, when was the last time you heard someone complaining that Apple had provided too many ports? 😉

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