What to Expect as Apple Gets Ready to End Mac Update Drought

  • Apple said to plan event unveiling new Mac computers Oct. 27
  • Company hasn’t issued major Mac update in more than a year

Apple Inc.’s long drought of Mac updates is soon coming to an end ahead of the important holiday sales period.

After launching new iPhones and Apple Watches last month, the Cupertino, California-based technology company is turning its attention to its oldest product category. It currently plans to announce the Mac updates at an event on Oct. 27, according to people familiar with the matter.

That’s two days after it reports quarterly results. Apple originally planned to discuss earnings on Oct. 27, but it moved that up to Oct. 25 because of a "scheduling conflict." Apple, known for meticulous event planning, rarely re-schedules earnings reports.

The Mac upgrades will be the first since 2015, save for the 12-inch MacBook receiving a new rose gold finish and slightly faster processors in April. 

While Apple mainly relies on sales of the iPhone, the Mac line remains a key component of the business. Macs made up more than 10 percent of 2015 revenue, the second-largest source of sales. In the most-recent quarter, Mac revenue continued to outpace iPad sales, showing resiliency in a category that some analysts have said would be cannibalized by tablets.

"The way Apple looks at the Mac is more or less a testing ground to see what is possible, they see it as a way to push the envelope, to see what’s possible there, and over time bring the iPad to that point," Neil Cybart, an Apple analyst at Above Avalon, said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment. Technology news website Recode reported the Mac event earlier.

Apple has been developing multiple new Mac-related products, people familiar with the matter have said.

  • The big news will be an update to the MacBook Pro, representing the high-end laptop’s first overhaul since 2012. The updated professional laptop will include a thinner case, larger trackpad, faster graphics cards, and a secondary display in place of the standard function keys at the top of the keyboard. The virtual keys will change based on the application in use. For example, Apple’s word processor would show editing commands. Apple is already working with select developers to optimize third-party applications for the feature, another person familiar with the matter said.
     
  • A new version of the iMac has been in development with an option for new graphics chips from AMD. While the computer market has shifted toward laptops, the iMac remains important for users like video editors who require more power and larger screens.



  • A new version of the MacBook Air with multi-functional USB-C port technology has also been in development. While the MacBook Air doesn’t include newer high-end features like Apple’s sharper display technology, the product is key to the lineup as it is the company’s most affordable laptop, currently starting at $899.



  • Job listings have indicated that Apple, at some point in the near future, plans to again offer Nvidia graphics chips in its computers. Apple’s relationship with Nvidia soured a few years ago, but the partnership’s return should please gamers who consider Nvidia’s chips as superior to AMD’s offerings.



— With assistance by Ian King

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