How a 16-inch Macbook Pro sets the ta­ble for ARM Mac­books

A $3,000 Ap­ple lap­top isn’t sur­pris­ing, given how Ap­ple prices its Pro prod­ucts.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY JA­SON SNELL

A16-inch Macbook Pro with reduced bezels and pos­si­bly a new key­board design is com­ing in Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Eco­nomic Daily News re­layed by 9to5­mac ( go.mac­world.

com/16mp). Most no­table in this lat­est sug­ges­tion of Ap­ple’s next-gen­er­a­tion lap­top is the price—edn sug­gests a start­ing price around an eye-wa­ter­ing $3,000.

Should we be sur­prised? Ap­ple has

never been fo­cused on be­ing the low-price leader, and at the top end of its prod­uct range, it has been un­afraid to charge a whole lot of money… es­pe­cially for prod­ucts bear­ing the name pro.

FROM POWER USERS TO PROS

Long af­ter the ar­rival of the imac as a low-cost con­sumer com­puter, most Mac power users still bought Power Macs. But dur­ing the In­tel switch, Ap­ple turned the Power Mac into the Mac Pro—and that was more than just a mar­ket­ing change. If the Power Mac was used by power users (and yes, its name also sig­ni­fied that it had a Pow­erpc pro­ces­sor in­side), the Mac Pro was meant to be used by pros and is priced ac­cord­ingly.

Look at the Mac desk­top land­scape to­day: The imac is so pow­er­ful (and the imac Pro and Mac Pro so ex­pen­sive) that it has ab­sorbed most of the users who once would’ve turned their noses up at it. Ap­ple has re­de­fined its desk­top line so that its most pow­er­ful de­vices are also so ex­pen­sive that they don’t make sense for most users.

Con­sider what we all learned when Ap­ple in­tro­duced the Pro Dis­play XDR ( go. mac­world.com/prds), namely that pro­fes­sional mar­kets bear no re­sem­blance to the world in­hab­ited by consumers (or pro­fes­sion­als in other ar­eas). What looks like a ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive dis­play to us looks like a great value to buy­ers in spe­cific pro­fes­sional mar­kets.

The mes­sage is that at the high end, Ap­ple is the maker of prod­ucts built for the needs of pro­fes­sion­als—and priced ac­cord­ingly. In the old days, a power user could pre­tend they were a “pro,” but these days if you fancy yourself a pro you will pay dearly for it.

The same story seems to be re­peat­ing it­self in Ap­ple’s lap­top line now. A $3,000 lap­top? Many of us will look at that price and flee to the $1,099 embrace of the Macbook Air, a re­ally solid lap­top that— let’s be hon­est with our­selves—offers enough power for maybe 95 per­cent of Mac buy­ers.

And many of the peo­ple in that other five per­cent will wince at the price, but im­me­di­ately place an or­der for one.

IT ALL ROLLS DOWN

Now the good news: The shock and out­rage (you know there will be out­rage) when Ap­ple dares to in­tro­duce a $3,000 lap­top will die down and Ap­ple will do what it al­ways does. It will roll the im­prove­ments in­tro­duced in the 16-inch Macbook Pro down to the rest of its prod­uct line, slowly mak­ing them avail­able at lower prices.

Con­sider the orig­i­nal Retina Macbook Pro ( go.mac­world.com/oret), which was priced at $2,199, quite a lot more than the non-retina models that were avail­able at the same time. Peo­ple paid a pre­mium for that first model, but seven years later all of Ap­ple’s lap­tops are Retina and you can buy one for as low as $1,099.

It’s also not quite as big a jump as you might think. The top-of-the-line 15-inch Macbook Pro model cur­rently sells for $2,799. A base model 16-inch model at $2,999 would be a mod­est price in­crease for the first model in a brand-new Ap­ple hard­ware gen­er­a­tion.

It also sug­gests that per­haps Ap­ple’s over­all plan is to eventually roll out re­place­ments for the 13-inch Macbook Pro (a 14-inch reduced-bezel model, maybe?)— but keep­ing prices $200 or so above the price of cur­rent models. I don’t love Ap­ple’s con­tin­ual ratch­et­ing up of prices, but it’s been a trend the last few years and I ex­pect it will con­tinue.

Even if this is the case, it’s not hard to imag­ine that in 2020 we’d see a 14-inch Macbook Pro model start­ing at $1,699, and in 2021 per­haps the cur­rent two-port Macbook Pro will be re­placed with a $1,499 model.

ARM FOR THE REST OF US?

The prob­lem with this sce­nario is not that Ap­ple ap­par­ently wants to make high­erend lap­tops and charge higher prices for them. It’s more that Ap­ple’s con­sumer­friendly lap­top line cur­rently lacks va­ri­ety, and that’s putting it mildly.

As much as I love the cur­rent-model Macbook Air, it is lit­er­ally the only con­sumer-grade lap­top Ap­ple sells to­day. Ap­ple seems to have spent the last cou­ple of years clean­ing up the mess it made ( go.mac­world.com/ardi) in mis­cal­cu­lat­ing the ap­peal of the 12-inch Macbook and the 13-inch Macbook Pro, which is ad­mirable—but right now, if you don’t want to pay for a Macbook Pro, all you’re left with is the Air.

If Ap­ple’s re­ally go­ing to ratchet up the price and specs of the Macbook Pro, it’s in­cum­bent on the com­pany to pro­vide non-pro users with more op­tions. All the ru­mors of Ap­ple soon mak­ing a tran­si­tion to Ap­ple-de­signed ARM pro­ces­sors on the Mac ac­tu­ally follow from this—af­ter all, lap­tops would ben­e­fit the most from the im­proved power ef­fi­ciency of ARM pro­ces­sors.

Maybe the fu­ture of Mac lap­tops re­ally is two-fold: A set of pricey Macbook Pros pow­ered by In­tel pro­ces­sors, and (ideally) more than one Arm-based lap­top that will fit the bud­get and needs of the gen­eral buy­ing pub­lic.

It might work, but Ap­ple is go­ing to need to pro­vide more va­ri­ety on the con­sumer side of the prod­uct line be­fore Macbook Pro users feel com­fort­able in mi­grat­ing en masse to the Macbook Air. As with so much of Ap­ple’s lap­top line in the last few years, this still feels like a work in progress. ■

Ap­ple Pro Dis­play XDR.

Orig­i­nal Retina Macbook Pro.

2019 Macbook Air.

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