It is well-known that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac products are powered by Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) processors. In fact, looking at Intel's direction over the last several years, it seems likely that the chip giant's products are very heavily influenced by Apple's exacting requirements. But with the widely publicized delay of Intel's next generation processor codenamed Broadwell, the prospects of new Mac products this year are in serious question.
What could come this year?
According to a leaked Intel roadmap from VR-Zone, it seems that the only next generation Broadwell processors that will come to market this year are the ultra-low power ones aimed at fanless designs/convertibles.
This means that Apple could launch a fanless, thin-and-light MacBook Air based on these very low power variants of Broadwell. This chip is unlikely to offer a huge performance boost from the current MacBook Air, but the potential fan-less selling point could be huge.
What's not coming this year?
Though Apple could conceivably launch a Broadwell-based MacBook Air late this year, the Intel roadmap suggests that the faster, higher power chips -- the ones suitable for MacBook Pros and iMacs -- aren't coming until 2015. The chips more suitable for a 13-inch MacBook Pro look as though they'll be ready in early 2015.
The investment implications for Apple
Truth be told, the Mac isn't a giant part of Apple's revenue base -- iOS devices are what make or break Apple's financials. But Mac sales are still large enough that a material year-over-year drop could take some of the shine off of any potential iPhone/iPad successes.
The current Mac products seem to be doing a good job taking share against Windows machines, particularly for folks looking to buy new systems. Additionally, If OS X Yosemite requires additional horsepower that the older supported Macs don't have, then this too could be added incentive for users of older Macs to upgrade even in the absence of a new model this year.
The point is this: Apple doesn't need new Mac models in order to gain share, but of course having new models to catalyze that upgrade cycle would have been better. At the very least, though, if consumer PCs are beginning to pick up again as some suspect, Mac sales should at a minimum track that rebound (if not outpace it due to share gains).
What about for Intel?
It may now be tempting to believe that Intel's Apple business is now at risk due to the slip of Broadwell. But it's not as though Apple could have gotten a Broadwell-equivalent product manufactured elsewhere for a product launch during the second half of this year.
Moving to next generation semiconductor manufacturing technologies is simply getting harder for everybody, and even Intel isn't immune to severe technical challenges.
Foolish bottom line
The delay of Broadwell on Intel's part is unfortunate and will very likely force Apple to push the bulk of its new Mac goodness into 2015. But if the PC market as a whole rebounds, then Apple -- which offers some of the most compelling systems on the market, differentiated with Mac OS -- is still poised to benefit, new Macs or not. Ditto for Intel.