In recent weeks, rumors have presented themselves about possible refreshes for Mac notebooks. Timed for the WWDC next week, they’ll reportedly include the MacBook, which hasn’t been updated since the spring of 2016, and the MacBook Pro, which received a major upgrade last October. Both are supposed to be fitted with Intel’s Kaby Lake processors. The MacBook Air is in question. It hasn’t been touched since 2015, and since the 11-inch model was shuffled off to the educational market, Apple’s ongoing support is questionable.
But putting new parts in all three models shouldn’t present a difficult issue. But I wonder if Apple will be able to offer a 32GB configuration of the MacBook Pro with this refresh. For some curious reason, this became a big issue with the 2016 MacBook Pro, even though no previous Mac notebook has supported more than 16GB of RAM. Even the Microsoft Surface portables are limited to 16GB.
Apple’s response pointed to the fact that they’d need to use a memory controller that supported slower RAM and that move would severely reduce battery life. Of course, some critics don’t bother with facts, but I suppose if Kaby Lake CPUs can make it happen with the standard memory setup, some customers will want to do it despite Apple’s exorbitant price for RAM updates. After all, customers can’t update RAM on Mac notebooks anymore.
Understand this is all based on rumors. It’s not that Apple would be expected to confirm anything. But a MacBook update is late, a MacBook Air update is very late, and a MacBook Pro update would be a few months early.
The normal signs that something is up are shipping delays. This is especially true if there isn’t much unsold inventory around. So, according to published reports, delivery times for the 15-inch MacBook Pro have slipped. So if you order one now from Apple, you won’t get it until some time between June 6th and June 8th, which is right after the WWDC keynote.
So if there was an update in the offing, meant for immediate shipping, that delivery date would be right on the money. At the same time, delivery times for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the MacBook, and the MacBook Air, were all normal when I checked while writing this article. That might mean that the larger MacBook Pro is more in demand, even if all three models are going to get updates. Or perhaps the situation will change in a few days.
On the other hand, not all MacBook Pro models are always updated at the same time. Sometimes the 13-inch and the 15-inch models are refreshed at different times of the year. But since Mac updates have not been getting the love in recent years, maybe Apple will want to get out the new products as soon as possible.
While the rumors don’t mention any other Macs, it’s also true that the Mac mini uses mobile parts. So I suppose it’s possible to refresh it too. It hasn’t been touched since 2014, when the price went down by $100, to an entry-level cost of $499, and the ability to swap out RAM was unceremoniously removed.
The iMac probably won’t be updated till the fall, and it may be that new Intel Core silicon expected in the next few months will be used for the promised pro options. The Mac Pro revision isn’t expected until at least next year, but I suppose it’s possible for Apple to demonstrate a work-in-progress. It would certainly go a long way towards reassuring professional Mac users that they aren’t being taken for suckers. But it all depends on whether there is something that has been completed sufficiently to demonstrate, if only with a video.
But I haven’t read any rumors about a 2018 Mac Pro demonstration at the WWDC. Perhaps Apple will say something about it when the new Mac notebooks are introduced. Or maybe the refreshed hardware will arrive with nothing more than press releases, since the expected updates are minor.
Whether or not there’s something worth showing, Apple would do well to speak about Mac hardware while presenting the next version of macOS. Maybe spend a few minutes recalling the history of the Mac and how important it is to Apple’s future. The possibility becomes more credible because Apple felt it had to conduct a special press roundtable in early April to talk about the Mac, with the emphasis on the Mac Pro.
That meeting, which included several “well-connected” tech journalists, certainly calls for an update. Even if there’s not much new to report, other than those Mac notebook refreshes if they come to pass, it would serve as a marketing advantage at a time when some tech pundits imagine that Apple needs to take a few hints from the Microsoft Surface.
Again, Surface sales never rose much higher a billion dollars for any quarter, and they were down 26% during the March quarter. That takes us to the Amazon Echo, which also hasn’t sold so well, but is generating a mindshare from some quarters that’s way beyond its actual influence in the marketplace.