In a report published on Jan. 15, DigiTimes claimed that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) "has no plan" to release a so-called "major upgrade" to its popular MacBook Pro line of notebook computers. In this column, I'd like to go over why this report is probably true.
MacBook form factor changes are rare
What DigiTimes is almost certainly referring to here is that Apple won't release a MacBook Pro in 2018 with a dramatic form-factor change compared to the currently available models. The reality is that the notebook computer is a type of computer that has been around for decades at this point, so it's very difficult for Apple -- or any other notebook computer maker, for that matter -- to release a new notebook that looks obviously new.
The last time Apple did so, as DigiTimes points out, was in the second half of 2016. With that update, Apple made a lot of changes -- the machines got thinner, the displays saw huge quality and brightness upgrades, and Apple even replaced the function keys with a touch screen display known as a Touch Bar.
Apple also added Touch ID to the new machines to make the login experience more convenient.
These changes added up to not only a massive form factor change but a non-trivial change in how customers interact with the computer. Such changes simply don't happen often, and I must admit that I have a hard time imagining what the next big shift in the form factor of the MacBook Pro will be.
It's little surprise, then, that this year's new MacBook Pro computers will almost certainly look and act similarly to the currently available ones.
Changes on the inside
Although meaningful form factor changes in the MacBook Pro are rare, computer technology always improves. Processors get faster, memory technology improves, graphics processors become more powerful, and connectivity technologies evolve.
I think with the MacBook Pro updates that Apple will introduce in 2018, Apple will bring a lot of internal improvements. I expect an upgrade to a much faster six-core processor for the 15-inch model (from a quad-core in the current models) and a move to a quad-core processor in the 13-inch models (up from just a dual-core).
It also seems reasonable to expect Apple to outfit these machines with faster (and possibly even larger) storage, faster memory, and in the case of the 15-inch model, a faster discrete graphics processor (the 13-inch model is likely to rely solely on the graphics integrated with the main processor).
My guess is that the move from a dual-core processor to a quad-core processor in the 13-inch MacBook Pro model will be the biggest deal. This should significantly improve the multitasking capabilities of the 13-inch model as well as make it far more suited for Pro-level work such as video and audio processing.
In fact, even though both the 13-inch and 15-inch models are set to receive processor upgrades, my guess is that Apple will see its proportion of 13-inch MacBook Pro models sold increase relative to the 15-inch ones as the 13-inch model is more portable and should have enough computing power inside of it to satisfy most potential MacBook Pro buyers.