Earlier this year, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced its new MacBook. The new device was generally praised in the press for its industrial design, thickness and weight, and high quality display. However, the device wasn't without criticism; Engadget -- which was generally positive on the device -- criticized the new MacBook's touchpad, the inclusion of just one USB Type-C port, and the fact that the device "can get warm on the bottom."
Despite the device's faults, though, comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook on the company's most recent earnings call suggest that the new MacBook is proving to be a commercial success.
The new MacBook apparently drove growth
In Apple's second fiscal quarter, the company saw its Mac unit shipments grow by 10% year-over-year, although revenue grew just 2%. This would seem to imply that Apple stimulated unit shipment growth by offering products at lower price points.
However, in the company's third quarter, it saw both revenue and units grow by 9% year-over-year, suggesting that the company saw average selling prices hold steady as unit shipments grew.
According to Cook, the Mac growth in the company's Mac business during its third fiscal quarter was "fueled by great response to [Apple's] new MacBook" and that the company is "working hard to catch up to customer demand."
In other words, it seems that the new MacBook is a commercial success for Apple.
Is the new MacBook truly the future of the notebook?
It's hard to ignore the apparent parallels between the original MacBook Air launch in early 2008 and the new MacBook launch in early 2015. Both devices were "radical" reinventions of the laptop, and both were controversial as they removed features that were standard in mainstream laptops.
In the Air's case, the "shocker" seems to have been the removal of the optical drive; in the new MacBook's case, it appears to have been the controversial decision to include just a single USB Type-C port.
However, as investors are well aware, the broader consumer notebook market has seen a significant shift toward MacBook Air-style machines over the last few years as consumers seemingly value thinner and lighter notebooks.
It's too soon to tell whether the new MacBook represents what will be the dominant notebook form factor going forward, but I do think that this form factor is here to stay for the long-haul.
Could a shift to devices such as the new MacBook shorten PC upgrade cycles?
PC processor vendor Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) believes that the overall PC market will decline at a "high-single digit" percentage rate in 2015. There are several popular hypotheses out there as to why the PC market seems to be declining, with one of them being that the PC refresh cycle has simply lengthened as their PCs remain "good enough" for longer.
If the market does shift to MacBook-style notebooks, then this could help shorten the PC upgrade cycle as these systems generally feature much weaker processors than those found in MacBook Air-class and MacBook Pro-class systems.
A reasonable counterargument to that, though, is the fact that the market shifted from using processors that consumed 35 watts of power to processors that consume 15-watts (such as the chips found in the current MacBook Air) and this doesn't seem to have helped the industry much.
Apple is still in the driver's seat with respect to the PC market
With respect to Apple, it is clear that the company is executing very well in the PC market. Its Mac OS operating system is widely praised, its system average selling prices are likely substantially above industry average, and it seems to be gaining market share.
Apple still seems well positioned to substantially outperform its peers in the PC market, which might mean growth in Mac shipments and revenue in the coming years even if the industry at large continues to contract.