It may not have been noticed, but Mac prices have, to a degree, been trending downward. It started with certain configurations of the MacBook Pro with Retina display last year. Earlier this year, a tiny refresh of the MacBook Air brought with it prices that were $100 less. That was more significant, because it brought the low-end model down to $899, the cheapest Mac ever beyond the educational market. More to the point, even the lowliest Microsoft Surface 3 tablet/note-book/whatever, with a keyboard, costs more.
Now there’s yet another rumor of an impending Mac price cut, this time heralding the arrival of the 2014 iMac. Now to be fair, Apple doesn’t always update a Mac unless or until Intel has a new processor family available. The 2013 Macs, other than the Mac Pro, relied on Haswell. The 2014 MacBook Air simply used slightly faster variants from the Haswell family.
But the newest Intel processors, known as Broadwell, are late. They aren’t expected to ship until before the holiday season, meaning it may be too late to get them in sufficient quantities for holiday gear. So it may make sense for Apple to just take the best of the current chips, and build somewhat faster iMacs. That and price cuts of $100-$200 would jump start sales of the venerable desktop line.
This doesn’t mean the iMac is necessarily expensive as all-in-ones go. When you compare them to the usual Windows equivalent, and match up the specs and the value of the bundled software, you’ll see that Apple’s prices are quite competitive. It’s also true that Macs are doing better, overall, than PCs when it comes to growing sales. So it’s very possible Apple is making a move to boost the Mac’s prospects for the summer and back-to-school seasons.
But what about the fall? Well, if a new iMac arrives in June, you hardly expect another update until some time in 2015, no doubt after the Broadwell chips ship in quantity. Of course, I could be all wrong about this. It’s happened before, and maybe Apple will be granted a million or so early-release Broadwell chips for the newest iMac. If that’s the case, fine and dandy, but the advantage of the updated Intel chipsets have been more about conserving power than number crunching.
And, obviously, it doesn’t make a difference with an iMac, as the amount of power you save would have a negligible impact on your electric bill.
Still missing an update, though, is the Mac mini. Today’s model comes from 2012, even though faster chips are available, and an update would probably be trivial to implement. I suppose it’s always possible Apple has something else in mind for the cheapest Mac, although it does have lots of fans who just love them. It could, for example, be modified to become a custom media server. Sure, you can sort of do that now if you assemble the raw apps and do the settings yourself. But that’s not Apple’s way.
Regardless, I would expect the next Mac mini, which might also arrive soon, will be cheaper. The original Mac mini in 2005 started at $499, and a $100 price reduction would return it to that level. Besides, I can’t imagine that Apple’s profits would be seriously impacted. Few worried that $100 cheaper MacBook Airs would hurt.
I suppose the MacBook Pro with Retina display could get a similar update. Slightly faster, somewhat cheaper. That would make sense, and such an update could also come soon. If Apple isn’t jumping to Broadwell, it could arrive any week now. As with a 2014 iMac, its arrival would be heralded with a press release and maybe one or two interview opportunities with Apple executives.
Of course, when you consider prices, the Mac Pro is a “no object” product. In saying that, it’s also true that you can’t match the prices with a home-built PC box. Some have tried and found prices thousands of dollars higher, particularly when maxed out. Even such traditional PC workstation builders as Dell and HP do not have direct equivalents to a Mac Pro that approach the purchase price. With a Mac Pro, there is no Apple tax. There’s a Dell tax, an HP tax, a built-it-yourself tax, etc.
But I tend to doubt the Mac Pro is ready for an update. Only this week did Apple catch up with orders. It’s barely a 2013 model, since it only shipped in limited quantities last December. So it may be that the refresh wouldn’t come until early 2015.
So does that mean there will be little news on the Mac front this fall other than the expected October arrival of OS X Yosemite? Perhaps. But what about Retina display variants of the MacBook Air and the iMac? These two products might herald a “one more thing” at a fall Apple media event. The only question would be how much more you’d have to pay to get the sharper display, or maybe the price will be the same as last year’s versions of both with standard displays? That would be quite a development.
You see, when it comes to predicting anything about the Mac in the twilight of the PC era, all bets are off.