According to a note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is planning a massive overhaul to its MacBook Pro lineup for later this year.
The new device is expected to bring a "thinner and lighter form factor" -- not unusual for a new Apple product. What's interesting about this new MacBook is that it will apparently bring two significant new features not present in previous MacBook Pro models.
According to the report, Touch ID is finally coming to the Mac, approximately three years after the feature was introduced in the iPhone 5s. It will be interesting to see how Touch ID is implemented in the new Mac.
Laptop makers have long included swipe sensors, although recently there have been announcements of area touch fingerprint sensors built into trackpads in recent years. I doubt that Apple, which brought one of the first high-volume touch area sensors to a consumer product with the iPhone 5s, would actually use such a swipe sensor. So, my guess is that we'll see something akin to a Touch ID spot integrated into this future Mac's trackpad.
Though a fingerprint scanner is likely more useful on a portable device that needs to be unlocked constantly, it should still be more convenient than having to type in a long password or passcode. And, since Apple is working to aggressively roll out Apple Pay for online purchases in addition to contactless payment in stores, including a fingerprint scanner on the Macbook could further serve to increase Apple Pay usage.
The next big feature that the new MacBook Pros will have, according to Kuo, is an "OLED display touch bar." This, the analyst says, will be used to "replace the physical function keys, located above the keyboard."
Although at first this sounds kind of gimmicky, especially as computer users have been using traditional function keys for a long time, Apple may very well be able to deliver something unique and -- more important -- useful. We'll have to see what Apple ultimately does with it.
Beyond the new whiz-bang features and the form factor, Kuo reports that the new MacBook Pros will adopt USB Type C (used in the current thin-and-light MacBook) as well as Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
Taking it a step further, we should expect the usual slate of upgrades: a transition from older-generation Intel processors (the 13-inch MacBook Pro uses Broadwell; the 15-inch MacBook Pro uses the even older Haswell architecture) to the chipmaker's latest Skylake processors.
For higher-end built-to-order models, I also expect Apple will use updated discrete graphics processors, which should also help performance as well as battery life.
The bummer? Not coming until Q4
It seems that Apple has a compelling set of new MacBook Pro models coming later this year, which should be good news for Apple and its customers. The bummer, though, is that these new Macs are reportedly not going to show up until the fourth quarter of this year. The good news for the iDevice maker is that even with a relatively stale set of notebook offerings, it's still managing to outperform the broader PC market. Look for accelerated outperformance in Apple's Mac business once these new systems hit the market.