Apple’s hardware refreshes haven’t garnered the company the kind of praise it’s used to getting of late. It’s most recent MacBook Pro refresh was completely overshadowed by problems with the company’s Core i9 and Core i7 CPUs (later resolved via firmware update). The new keyboards those systems shipped with are an attempt to fix (for the second time) Apple’s problems with dust particles irreparably jamming customer devices. Now the company is reportedly preparing to try again, this time with a brace of new products.
First, there’s supposedly a new entry-level (or “entry level”) MacBook in the works, with a 13-inch, higher resolution display than the current MacBook Air. Supposedly the target price point would be lower than the $1,300 opening price for the MacBook and MacBook Pro, but no details have been given. The least expensive machine Apple currently sells is the $1,000 MacBook Air, but the SKU hasn’t been updated since 2015 and it shows, badly. A replacement system would be well received, at least in theory.
Apple is also considering a new Mac Mini, a system it hasn’t updated in four years, Bloomberg reports. This makes Apple almost certainly the only company still shipping Haswell chips in a mainstream desktop system as its primary CPU. Supposedly Apple wants to update the system to give it a more professional focus. Bloomberg writes:
The computer has been favored because of its lower price, and it’s popular with app developers, those running home media centers, and server farm managers. For this year’s model, Apple is focusing primarily on these pro users, and new storage and processor options are likely to make it more expensive than previous versions.
This is amusing for all sorts of reasons. Let’s take a look at the Mac Mini:
For $500, Apple will sell you a Core i5-4260U — that’s a Haswell-era dual-core CPU with a non-upgradeable 4GB of DDR3-1600, and a 500GB 5400 RPM HDD. For $550, Dell will sell you a Core i5-8400 with six CPU cores, 8GB of DDR4-2667, and a 7200 RPM 1TB HDD. You even get a DVD-RW drive. Yet according to Bloomberg, Apple isn’t going to be able to sell its $500 Mac Mini without somehow charging folks even more money for it.
Claptrap. It’s entirely possible that Apple could be working on a refreshed Mac Mini with, say, an AMD mobile GPU attached to it, or faster storage options, but if it raises the price it won’t be because Apple just couldn’t build a profitable machine at that price point. It’ll be because it can. The final cost of a product and its manufacturing expense have precious little to do with each other, which is why Apple dominates the profits of every industry it participates in, despite only selling a fraction of the unit volume of its competitors. And if Apple is finally moving to upgrade these systems, it’s because the company is concerned that it might finally start losing its professional users after years of ignoring their requests for refreshed hardware.
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