A few months ago, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) released a minor refresh of its 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The new system was mostly the same as the prior-generation model it replaced, with a few enhancements such as a slightly larger battery, faster discrete graphics processor, and a Force Touch trackpad.
The fact that the device didn't include an updated processor was a disappointment, but it was expected given that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) probably didn't have updated processors suitable for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro available in quantities at the time of the device's launch.
Although there had appeared to be evidence that updated processors from Intel might be available this fall to support an updated 15-inch MacBook Pro, it seems that this may not be the case after all.
CPU World leaks quad-core Skylake lineup
Highly reliable website CPU World recently published the specifications of Intel's upcoming batch of H-series notebook processors. According to the site, the initial round of H-series processors that Intel plans to launch between September and October will all come with Intel's HD 530 graphics engine.
The HD 530 graphics is the marketing name for Intel's lower-end "GT2" integrated graphics configuration. In the current MacBook Pro, Apple uses processors with higher performing GT3e graphics.
With the Skylake H-series processors, Intel is expected to offer processors with even higher-performing GT4e graphics. Such processors seem to be the prime candidates for a refreshed 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
Unless CPU World's information is incomplete, it would seem that these GT4e parts will launch at some point after the initial GT2 Skylake-H parts.
We might be looking at the first quarter of 2016 for a complete MacBook refresh
According to a recent leak from website Fanless Tech, the 28-watt Skylake-based parts (dual core with GT3e graphics) will become available in the first quarter of 2016. It would make sense that the quad-core Skylake parts with GT4e graphics -- which should be even more difficult to manufacture than the dual core parts with GT3e graphics -- would come in around the first quarter of 2016.
If Intel can get both the dual-core parts with GT3e graphics as well as the quad-core parts with GT4e graphics out in high volumes during the first quarter of 2016, then Apple might elect to do a comprehensive refresh of its MacBook lineup at that time.
Might Apple be at a disadvantage relative to its Windows peers?
Many of the Windows notebook vendors will likely update their systems to include Intel's Skylake processors (albeit with GT2 graphics) this fall. If Apple doesn't refresh its MacBook lines until early 2016 as it waits for more powerful chips from Intel, then a reasonable question to ask is: "Would Apple be at a disadvantage relative to its peers in the Windows world?"
Frankly, it doesn't seem so. Apple was not the first to adopt Intel's Broadwell-U family of processors in its MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro computers; it lagged popular Windows PC vendors by a several of months as the company probably wanted to wait for the more advanced Broadwell chips with more powerful GT3 graphics to become available.
Despite this wait, Apple still saw its Mac sales during its fiscal second quarter -- during most of which, Apple was not shipping Broadwell-based computers -- grow year over year in a weak overall PC market.