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Apple Inc. Reportedly Set to Refresh Its Macs Later This Year

By Ashraf Eassa - Jan 29, 2016 at 11:15AM

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The iDevice maker reportedly plans to give its already strong Mac product lineup a boost over the next couple of quarters.

In its most recent quarter, Apple's (AAPL 2.14%) Mac product line once again outperformed the broader PC market, with sales down 4% year-over-year against a total PC industry decline of 11% (a number Apple attributes to research firm IDC). Apple's market segment share gains against the rest of the industry have been a running theme for quite a while, and this is just a continuation of that.

Interestingly, even as Apple's competition in the PC space have refreshed their lineups at a rapid pace while Apple "milks" what are now quite mature designs, Apple is still outperforming them.

According to DigiTimes, Apple is planning to refresh its Mac product line across the second half of 2016, something that DigiTimes' sources believe will help to raise Apple's overall Mac average selling prices.

Let's take a closer look at just what Apple has planned and how it might achieve this claimed average selling price uplift.

12-inch Mac and 13.3-inch MacBook models in Q2, 15-inch model in the third
DigiTimes says that Apple plans to update both its 12-inch and 13.3-inch MacBook computers either at the end of the first quarter of 2016 or early in the second quarter of 2016. Considering that Apple launched the 12-inch MacBook and refreshed its MacBook Air computers (11-inch and 13-inch) as well as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display at its "Spring Forward" event last year, this timing makes sense.

Additionally, DigiTimes claims that the 15-inch MacBook Pro won't see a refresh until the third quarter of 2016, putting the refresh of this device more than a year after it was last refreshed. I suspect that Apple is waiting for new discrete graphics processors built on 14/16-nanometer FinFET manufacturing technology to update this system.

What should we expect to see?
I believe that the update to the 12-inch MacBook will be a fairly straightforward one; from the timing it will almost certainly feature an Intel (INTC 1.46%) Skylake-based Core m processor (so no dice on Apple potentially holding out for Kaby Lake chips before refreshing the system). This should bring some nice improvements in performance, features, and ultimately battery life.

The "13.3-inch" models have the potential to be much more interesting. It's a virtual certainty that Apple will upgrade the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro to include much more powerful Skylake processors. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Apple update the display on the device to include a wide color gamut panel, similar to what Apple did with the Retina 4K/5K iMac machines.

The open question in my mind is: "What about the 13.3-inch MacBook Air?"

On one hand, I could see Apple substantially overhauling the 13.3-inch MacBook Air, essentially delivering a more powerful system that strongly resembles a "scaled up" 12-inch MacBook. Such a system would likely use a 15-watt Skylake-U processor (likely the Core i7-6560U with Iris Graphics for the built-to-order option and the Core i7-6260U for the base model).

In such a lineup, I would see no need for the company to refresh the 11.6-inch MacBook Air as it would be made redundant by the 12-inch MacBook.

One more thing...
Although it's likely not a large part of Apple's Mac sales, I do think that Apple will refresh the Mac Pro. Intel has said that the Xeon E5 v4 processors that would be suitable for such a system will arrive sometime in the first half of 2016, so a refresh of the Mac Pro (which is using Intel Xeon processors from 2013) within the next six months wouldn't be a surprise at all.

I wouldn't expect such a system in late Q1/early Q2, though -- a launch at the 2016 World Wide Developers conference would probably be the "right" time to launch the system.

Foolish takeaway
Apple has done very well with Mac, continuing to gain share against the competition. I believe that with new, refreshed systems Apple should be able to continue to gain share and even see the average selling price boost mentioned earlier.


Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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