Why has Apple ignored the low end Macs for years? Why doesn’t Apple simply put Intel’s latest CPUs in the Mac mini, MacBook Air, or even the MacBook Pro models? Everyone wants the latest and greatest and fastest chips from Intel, right?
My analysis of the Mac line tells me there are three likely reasons that Apple has paid little attention to the Mac in recent years. None of the three are– in the eyes of an Apple customer– valid reasons, but one or all or any combination might give us an idea to what is going on with the Mac these days.
Old Is New
First, let me set the state of the Mac in a basic perspective. The Mac is getting old and not much new has come down the line. iMac Pro with all those screaming fast Xeon chips inside seems to be a mid-range Mac Pro model to tide us over until a true-blue Mac Pro arrives sometime next year.
No other Mac has Intel’s latest Inside. The MacBook Air hasn’t changed in years, and the Mac mini has Intel’s 4th generation chips inside while Intel sells 8th generation chips. That’s just nuts.
It could be because there isn’t much performance difference for standard usage between a 4th generation and 8th generation Intel chip. How much faster is Safari and Mail on an old-but-new Mac mini vs. a quad-core iMac or MacBook Pro? Still, would it hurt Apple to upgrade components more frequently?
Second, the lack of attention to the Mac could be because Apple’s executives just don’t care about 100-million Mac customers or the future of desktops or notebooks as we move deeper into the mobile device era. The executive lip service has been going on for a few years. iMac Pro is not aimed at the Mac customer masses.
Third, Apple has something special coming down the road and is willing to coast along until all the new digital ducks are in a row. What? Face ID? Apple-designed chips inside? A united iOS and macOS platform for developers?
One problem that is crystal clear is Intel. Anton Shilov:
Intel [said] it would delay mass production of its 10 nm processors from 2018 to 2019 due to yield issues. The company has claimed to be shipping some of its 10 nm chips in small volumes right now, but due to cost reasons the firm does not intend to initiate their high-volume manufacturing (HVM) at this time.
Apple’s own chip design– the A-Series Bionic in iPhone X and iPhone 8 models– is a 7-nanometer chip manufactured by TSMC in Taiwan which competes well in performance with Intel Inside on MacBook and MacBook Pro. Clearly, Apple and its suppliers have had more success advancing their chip designs and manufacturing than Intel. Perhaps Apple is waiting for Intel Inside with better performance and improved power management.
Whatever it is, Apple’s big problem seems to be a combination of, 1) Intel Inside– no new chips with substantially improved performance, or, 2) executives that just don’t care about the Mac any more and since sales remain at near record levels, why bother to upgrade? Or, 3) something really wicked this way comes to the Mac line in the future; maybe even an entry-level Mac with its own A-Series chip inside.
Whatever it is, I’m still waiting.