Well, would you look at that. For once, Apple (AAPL 0.68%) unveiled something that wasn't entirely expected at its Mac event earlier today. Ahead of the unveiling, the rumors had narrowed in on three new MacBook models, and no iMac refresh. While new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros were obvious, it wasn't entirely clear what the other rumored 13-inch MacBook would be. Some thought it would be a new MacBook Air with USB-C ports. As it turns out, it was just another 13-inch MacBook Pro instead of a tweaked Air.
As expected, the new MacBook Pros feature a dynamic display above the keyboard, replacing the traditional function keys with a versatile toolbar that can change contextually. Apple calls this the Touch Bar, and it can morph into various different tools and buttons depending on what task you're doing or what application you're using. Integrated into the right side of the Touch Bar is a small second-generation Touch ID sensor, finally bringing Apple's fingerprint recognition technology to the Mac. This can be used to unlock the computer, switch user profiles, or use Apple Pay on the web for websites that have adopted Apple's payment service.
Intel's six-generation Skylake chips are onboard at long last, bringing the MacBook Pro lineup up to speed in a much-needed upgrade. The Mac maker is moving toward Thunderbolt 3 ports, which include support for USB-C and a wide range of other protocols. And yes, there is a headphone jack. The keyboard is similar to the 12-inch MacBook, using a second generation of Apple's butterfly mechanism. Naturally, this is the thinnest and lightest MacBook Pro Apple has ever made. (Stop me if you've heard that one before.)
The surprise move was that Apple is making a version without the Touch Bar and Touch ID, instead using traditional function keys, but still within the new chassis. There are also only two Thunderbolt 3 ports as opposed to four. The 13-inch MacBook Pro that has traditional function keys will start at $1,499, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and Touch ID starts at $1,799. That $300 premium is a hefty ask for what amounts to a small display (which is presumably OLED based on rumors, but Apple did not specify) and a Touch ID sensor. All 15-inch models include the Touch Bar and Touch ID and start at $2,399.
Other Macs continue to age
There was no mention of updates for any other Macs. The Mac Mini is still incredibly old, with the last upgrade being two years ago. The Mac Pro hasn't been updated since 2013. There was some speculation that Apple would update the iMac 5K with new graphics processors from AMD, but nope. The 27-inch iMac 5K already uses the latest Intel chips, and appropriate desktop-class seventh-generation Kaby Lake chips simply aren't ready yet.
This event was all about the MacBook Pro. As the most important product within the Mac lineup, hopefully the new laptops will help Apple's Mac business grow again after losing share for the past two to three quarters.