Report: Apple Inc. Prepping MacBook Updates for WWDC

Per a fresh report from Bloomberg, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) “plans to announce an update to its laptop lineup at an annual conference for app developers in early June.”


Or, in other words, at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC).

An Apple MacBook Pro.

Image source: Apple.

Bloomberg says that the Mac maker plans to refresh three of its MacBook products. The company’s MacBook Pro “will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and its 12-inch MacBook will also get a “faster Intel chip.”

Perhaps most interestingly, Bloomberg says that Apple “has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor” because sales of the device “remain surprisingly strong.”

The MacBook Pro updates

Apple currently sells its MacBook Pro computers in two screen sizes — 13 inches and 15 inches. Both current models incorporate Intel’s Skylake processor family (marketed as sixth-generation Core), and both lack features available in Kaby Lake chips (marketed as seventh-generation Core), and are less efficient, to boot.

An Intel seventh-generation Core (Kaby Lake) chip for notebooks.

Image source: Intel.

The move from sixth-generation Core to seventh-generation Core isn’t going to deliver a groundbreaking improvement in user experience, but higher performance, more features, and better power efficiency are always good things — especially since Apple’s competitors are already shipping systems based on those superior chips.

The MacBook update

The current 12-inch MacBook also includes a sixth-generation Core processor (though technically the chips are marketed under the now mostly phased-out “Core m” branding, they are sixth-generation Core processors in terms of design and capabilities).

I suspect that the “faster Intel chip” that Bloomberg mentions is simply a seventh-generation Core (Kaby Lake) processor. The chips found in the current 12-inch MacBook are quite a bit zippier than the chips used in the first iteration of the 12-inch MacBook, but substantially faster chips (and the Kaby Lake chips suitable for the 12-inch MacBook are noticeably faster than the current Skylake ones) would probably significantly improve the user experience, given the very tight power constraints on the chips inside such slim/fan-less devices.

One more thing…

Apple’s current 13-inch MacBook Air includes a fifth-generation Intel Core processor (based on the Broadwell architecture), which means that in terms of the processor inside of it, it is woefully out of date.

Intel delivered substantial performance/feature improvements in moving from its fifth-generation Core product line to its sixth-generation Core products, and it did so again when it moved from its sixth-generation Core to its seventh-generation Core products.

A two-generation improvement in performance/efficiency should be quite a nice shot in the arm for the 13-inch MacBook Air.

The Bloomberg article didn’t make clear what other enhancements, if any, Apple plans to bring to the faster 13-inch MacBook Air, but here are two features that could help make the device more competitive in the marketplace:

  1. Better display: The display found on the current 13-inch MacBook Air is simply not acceptable for anything close to resembling a premium laptop. An upgrade to a higher-resolution, IPS display (though support for wide color isn’t necessary) would be most welcome for this product.
  2. More modern look: The current 13-inch MacBook Air is based on an ancient (in tech terms) design, with the most prominent sign of this being the huge bezels around the display. These bezels need to be shrunken, at a minimum.

If the current 13-inch MacBook Air is still selling reasonably well given all of its deficits, then one with new processors and the changes outlined above could do really well in the marketplace, potentially enabling Apple to accelerate share gains against Windows-based notebooks.


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