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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.

If anything, the Touch Bar probably has more mass appeal than any prior MacBook Pro feature. While it will surely streamline some professionals’ workflows, few of the things it does are geared toward professional use, and many of its primary uses are things veterans will eschew in lieu of standard keyboard shortcuts.

Touch of class

Conspicuously absent from the year’s only dedicated Mac event was any mention of the desktop models. It’s been over a year since the iMac last saw an update—and much, much longer for the Mac mini and Mac Pro—but it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything new before the first quarter of next year.

But when a new version of Apple’s iconic all-in-one finally arrives, it’s almost certain to be the most powerful Mac in the family. The 12-month-old iMac can hold its own against the brand-new Surface Studio, and assuming a refreshed iMac would get the newest Kaby Lake processors and a handful of USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, the iMac will have the soul of a pro Mac.

macbook pro touch bar customize
We'd love to see the Touch Bar break free of the MacBook Pro and be added to a T1-, Touch ID-equipped Magic Keyboard 2. 

And then there’s the Touch Bar. While it’s exclusive to the MacBook Pro for now, it’s doubtful it’ll stay that way. Last year Apple brought Force Touch from the MacBook Pro to the iMac with Magic Trackpad 2, so incorporating the Touch Bar into a Magic Keyboard 2 seems like a natural progression. With the power of Bluetooth 4.2 and the new T1 chip there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t work, and it would continue to elevate the iMac as the flagship pro desktop workstation.

Heads up

Apple’s product matrix is filled with devices of all shapes and sizes, but while they may have disparate functions and features, one thing is clear: the screen is king. In fact, there are only two headless Macs in Apple’s catalogue and neither has gotten much love recently.

The Mac mini hasn’t been refreshed in more than two years, and the Mac Pro hasn’t received a single update since its launch in December 2013. And what’s more, Apple has bowed out of the standalone screen business, opting instead to partner with LG for the long-overdue successor to its Thunderbolt Display.

macbook pro 2016 with display 
The LG UltraFine 5K display has the single-cable connection and extra ports we all loved on the Thunderbolt Display. 

Screens aren’t just central to Apple’s strategy, they’re essential. And when the iMacs are updated next year I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Mac mini get axed from the lineup once and for all. The Mac Pro will probably stick around for for while for the ultra high-end niche, but it’s doubtful to see any meaningful upgrades beyond USB-C and speedier chips. Just like the new MacBook Pro straddles the line between consumers and professionals, the iMac will become the de facto pro desktop in all its retina-and-Thunderbolt glory.

 

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