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  • Why Should Apple Take on a Company With Declining Hardware Sales?

    May 17th, 2017

    It certainly makes sense for the rumors to ramp up ahead of Apple’s WWDC. You know there will be new versions of the company’s various operating systems, with the emphasis on macOS and iOS. But there has been sparse speculation about the new features, less than usual for this time of year. Perhaps that’s because hardware is getting a new emphasis.

    Well, the Mac at any rate. Sure, one supposed industry analyst suggested that Apple will demonstrate an iPhone 8 at the WWDC, but that makes no sense whatever. Tim Cook already claims that iPhone sales have been hurt by expectations of this alleged new model, so why would they make matters worse? It’s just not part of Apple’s playbook, which usually involves demonstrating new products when there’s no existing model for which to gut sales.

    Well, there’s the 2013 Mac Pro, and I suppose Apple might demonstrate the new model, since one has already been promised. That assumes it will ship no later than early next year, so they have something fairly complete to present.

    There’s also a published report about possible Mac notebook refreshes at the WWDC, but the reasons why don’t pass the logic test.

    The story claims that all three notebook lines will be updated, and that the update will include Kaby Lake processors. Indeed, many complained that Apple didn’t make that move with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro, where the Touch Bar debuted. Only thing: Quad-core versions of Kaby Lake hadn’t shipped yet, but some people don’t care about facts.

    So Apple is also allegedly seriously considering an update to the 13-inch MacBook Air after two years. But at this point, if it’s to be announced next month, it would already be in production. While a refresh doesn’t seem to be out of the question, if it were to have a Retina display, wouldn’t it encroach on the MacBook, which also is due for a refresh? A MacBook Pro upgrade is questionable, since the last update was October of last year. You’d expect Apple would wait until fall, unless this is such an easy update that it would make sense to release it as soon as possible, perhaps along with a small price decrease.

    While it would be real nice to see the Mac getting some love, the reason for pushing out this new hardware at a WWDC are allegedly due to Microsoft’s presumed advantages with the Surface notebooks. Does that make sense to you?

    True, the media has been touting Microsoft for several years, since they entered the Windows PC business. But there’s a real problem: Sales are pathetic and remain pathetic.

    Indeed, in the March quarter, Surface sales dropped 26%, and they were already a fraction of the Mac’s. Mac sales were up a few percent, largely because of the favorable reception to the new MacBook Pro. So why should Apple be concerned about a hardware maker who can’t touch them in revenue?

    Clearly some people who pretend to understand Apple have a problem grasping simple facts, which is that the reasons don’t make a lick of sense. The main difference between a Mac and a Surface, other than the fact that the latter is sometimes more expensive, is the touchscreen. While delivering faster Macs is always a good thing, does it magically make them more competitive to someone else’s product with a feature Apple hasn’t and won’t imitate?

    Is the public clamoring for Surfaces? Is the public ditching Macs because Apple can’t compete with the Surface? If the Surface is so great, why are sales dropping? Just months after the Surface Studio all-in-one computer was launched, at $2,999.99 for the cheapest model, is it selling like gangbusters? Are artists really hoping Apple would build an iMac with a gooseneck arm so you can manipulate the display any way you want?

    Once again, Surface sales in the March quarter declined by 26%, just a few months after the Surface Studio was released. So has it made that much of a difference? I don’t dispute its value to a certain class of content creators, but it may be too much of a niche product to really catch on in a big way.

    The Surface Laptop? It’s supposedly marketed to school systems, and it appears to have some value. But it’s also more expensive than the sort of gear the educators purchase these days. At a time when many are moving towards super cheap Chromebooks, why would they gravitate towards a notebook with a starting price of $999, and a fully-outfitted price of $2,199?

    Well, maybe it’ll go over really big at Beverly Hills High School (the city’s average income is $193,000) or a similar school in another relatively high-income area.

    All this doesn’t mean that I don’t take the possibility of a Mac notebook refresh seriously. It makes perfect sense, though the timing of a MacBook Pro update might be premature. But if the MacBook Air and the MacBook are destined to be updated around the time of the WWDC, it would probably be treated as an afterthought, scarcely getting any mention at all at the keynote except to demonstrate Apple’s ongoing commitment to the Mac.



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