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The new MacBook Pro isn't just a laptop, it's a strategy shift

Michael Simon | Nov. 3, 2016
Apple's decisions with its Pro line of laptops could signal a further shrinking of its Mac product lines.

There was a time when differentiating between Apple’s pro and consumer lines was easy. Even after Apple stopped painting its entry-level Macs with candy-flavored colors, there was always a clear separation between the machines meant for professionals and the ones for everyone else. They didn’t just look the part, they delivered the power, performance and features the majority of people didn’t need but pros demanded (and could afford).

As the first major revision in more than 4 years, Apple’s new notebooks seem to tick off the right boxes. They’re fast. They have improved retina displays. They’re fitted with the latest expansion ports. The 15-incher is powerful enough to drive a pair of 5K displays. And that’s before we get to the svelte and powerful Touch Bar.

But it’s hard not to see a shift in Apple’s thinking. While its price is certainly commensurate with its predecessors, the new MacBook Pro isn’t your standard professional notebook. Rather, the latest flagship portables from Cupertino are more in line with the iPad Pro than the MacBook Pros they replace, and it could signal major changes ahead for the rest of the lineup.

Pros and cons

As Apple’s strategy has shifted to focus on devices that fit in our pockets, the concept of the PC has changed with it. What was once the center of our lives has been relegated to something most people use for heavier lifting. The new MacBook Pros might be thinner and lighter than ever, but they’re also less likely to leave the house when an iPhone or iPad is such a good travel companion.

And that’s how Apple wants it. Over the past decade the Mac has comprised an increasingly smaller portion of Apple’s bottom line, and it’s hard to not see last week’s Hello Again event as the beginning of the pro Mac’s retirement party. It won’t happen overnight, but the day when Apple is only selling a single Mac desktop and notebook line is within sight.

macbook pro lineup new
After the Hello Again event, you'd be forgiven for thinking Apple only made laptop Macs. 

That’s why it seems like there’s a little less pro in this year’s MacBook. With the Air on life support, the MacBook Pro needs to pull double-duty, appealing to both its namesake professionals and millions of people who want a new Mac at home. Much like the iPad Pro kept the tablet’s central tenet intact but added simple tools to help users work faster and more efficiently, the MacBook Pro’s marquee feature isn’t the kind of input or I/O game-changer professionals are accustomed to getting.


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