Apple’s (disclosure: I own AAPL stock) long-awaited MacBook and MacBook Pro revisions were announced today, and surprised many by simply making upgrades. While I’d have loved to have seen a whole new lineup of laptops, the reality is this move made a lot of sense for the company. First, let’s not be so quick to forget that it’s been less than 2 months since they announced the Air, and it already has a competitor. So for us to expect new form factors, designs, or massive changes to the “standard” lineup was not just optimistic, it probably didn’t make much business sense for Apple.
First, designing a product is expensive. Apple invested a lot into the current MB and MBP lineups, and just finished the Air. This all doesn’t come cheap (especially for a company that only invests 3% of sales into R&D efforts). Like it or not, they are still the “up and comer” in the market, so they need to literally squeeze the profits out of every line they can. It’s also likely that due to expanding sales volumes Apple is driving the costs of producing MBs down further and further, so they are enjoying economies of scale. Creating a new chassis alone would mess that up.
Next, the company has made steady inroads into the overall laptop market, there’s no real business case for bringing out a whole new lineup. The Air enables Apple to compete in the ultraportable AND ultrasexy computing spaces. The MacBook Pro represents the “power laptop” and the MacBook is probably the best budget laptop on the market. One has to examine the market opportunity (other than existing MB owners) before demanding a costly new revision to a fairly successful product.
So they are left playing the “speeds and feeds” game, wherein the upgrades are about numbers. Bigger hard drives. More RAM. Faster CPUs. Same prices. The goal here is to show how the units can perform (or outperform) PC counterparts. I got my MacBook last August with 80GB of storage, which today is way too small – now it comes with 120GB standard. These enhanced stats are good for the comparisons and the technically sophisticated shopper, but don’t really bring much “wow” to typical consumers. It’s unlikely that my mom’s going to call me tonight all excited about the new Penryn-powered Mac she heard about.
Would I have loved to see Air-inspired MacBook Pros get announced today? Sure. Was I expecting it? Eh, maybe a little bit. Am I going to buy a Pro? Now that’s the question I can’t answer yet. I do know I’m feeling like my current MB isn’t enough (Photoshop loads slower than my Vaio! No, I’m just kidding – nothing is slower than the Vaio, which I believe I have successfully sold to a potential scammer on eBay. Awesome!). I think I’m going to burrow back into wait-and-see mode for a few more weeks while I sort out the options. But I’ll probably buy something, just, well, because!
Yeah, I was expecting SOMETHING more, but will actually buy the new pro now. I need another Mac laptop since I couldn’t handle the MB I loved, because of the GLOSSY screen. I’m okay with the upgrades at the moment, as you allude to – why mess with perfection..
3% of Sales sounds low, it was over 4% a few years ago. Granted, now that SALES have gone through the roof, it is hard to scale R&D effectively, but I guess sales HAVE grown probably 30% JUST in the past couple years. There’s your 25% reduction in R&D spend rite thar!
I was happy they fixed the 7200 RPM HDD upgrade problem. It’s still not completely fixed, as you can’t choose speed over size without paying more. But at least you can go to a 7200rpm 200GB for $100, which isn’t great, but not as bad as the MacBook which is stuck with a 5400.
When I upgraded to a 7200rpm in my old MBP, I couldn’t believe the overall performance increase that I experienced in every day use as well as in benchmarks.
I wrote about it here, which includes xbench results
Overall my biggest disappointment is Apple’s continued reluctance to include an eSATA port. It is far faster than FW800 and a must for anyone who does video work. Also, since the internal drive is SATA it shouldn’t be a big deal to add.
Jeremy, do you still have that Sony? If so, I’d love to take a look at it and figure out why it sucks so bad. (Maybe help some future Sony victi^H^H customers.) My e-mail’s in the comments. I looked for contact info here but couldn’t find any, so send me a note if you’re at all interested.
ed – email sent. i’m up for the challenge! 🙂