Politics, religion, product comparisons; our ability to take something that isn’t there and put something into it is world renowned. Look at the new MacBook Air. It comes with options, but not many, and is tied down to the same Intel Inside, an 8th generation dual-core i5. What’s the takeaway? Apple wants to kill configurable Macs.
MacBook Air does come with configurable options beyond the CPU. Double the RAM for $200. Jump from the somewhat anemic 128GB SSD storage to crazytown with 1.5TB SSD storage for $1,000 more. That means the price tag goes from a palatable $1,199 to an inflated $2,599. You want more, Apple gives you more, you pay more money, and Apple gets rich (or, richer).
Configurable Macs? It’s always been that way and always will be that way because all customers are not the same and have different needs.
But, let’s go with What If! Jason Snell extrapolates into the rabbit hole thanks to the limited choices Apple gives for MacBook Air.
This feels like the future of the Mac, certainly on the consumer end of the product line. With the new MacBook Air, Apple has picked a processor and stuck with it. Would any of us be surprised if it did the same with a future update to the MacBook? Or low-end iMacs?
I would be surprised. Disappointed, too. Product marketing is about differentiation, and products need to be differentiated from themselves as well as competitors. Why? Customers are different.
If Apple starts building Macs with ARM processors, is it going to want to offer different classes of processors within those models?
Probably. Maybe not initially, because we don’t know where an ARM CPU will go first, but there is precedent already with iPhone and iPad models that use Apple’s own ARM-based A-Series CPUs.
On iOS, Apple has steadfastly refused to do this. Every model-year of a given model is generally powered by the same processor across the board.
That’s both correct and incorrect at the same time. The Mac line has multiple CPUs between MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro, so there is no precedent on the Mac.
The only thing close to that notion is the obvious; only the new iPhone models have the same CPU. iPhone 8 and iPhone 7, still available and still selling, have older, slower CPUs. Snell is talking about CPU configurations only, so we can drop the options for different RAM and SSD storage and other components which further differentiate the Mac line.
My prediction for the Mac’s future is simple. Somewhere down the road, next year perhaps, or the year after, Apple will launch a Mac notebook with its own ARM-based A-Series CPU inside. Maybe it’ll be a MacBook; smaller, lighter, always on; still a Mac but without Intel Inside.
The only question is, “Where does that Mac live?” Already the Apple-designed A-Series CPUs run rings around entry-level and many mid-level Macs with Intel Inside, so it seems plausible that the first A-Series CPU on a Mac is a single configuration, but as CPU power and capability improve beyond Intel Inside, we can expect more models.
If the MacBook Pro were to end up with an ARM processor, I’d imagine that Apple will do what it does now— namely offer a few different variations with a mix of features at various price points. You may not be able to configure a faster processor in a future ARM MacBook Pro, but Apple may just offer a faster model for a higher price.
Yes. But configurable within a model? Or, simply different models with different configurations?
I vote for what’s behind door #2, Monte. Why? Money. Apple knows that customers often migrate from a base model to one with more, well, configurable options. We see that all the time with RAM and SSD storage, and it remains commonplace on newer Mac models, so why would Apple abandon an opportunity to
make take more money from a customer just to keep the SKUs down?
Apple doesn’t leave much money on the table these days, and a Mac with the company’s famed A-Series CPU inside won’t be crippled by such a notion as the death of a configurable Mac.