Apple's 2013: Laptops

Wait, which laptops?
All of them. I'm not going to waste time and space with a post just talking about the Air, then the Pro... too boring. Let's get this show on the road so we can talk about software, already.

OK. So, what are we working with here?

Glad you asked. Right now, Apple's laptop categories are nice and clean - three categories, two layers deep.

First, you've got the 11" and 13" Macbook Air (MBA), then the 13" and 15" Macbook Pro (MBP), and then the 13" and 15" Macbook Pro with Retina display (rMBP).

The Macbook Air

Remember, the MBA really is only about a year and a half old, if you think about it. The first MBA, the two thousand dollar one, was a shred of what it became when Apple turned it into a thousand-dollar, SSD-holding speed machine in late 2011. Last summer, it got Ivy Bridge, USB 3.0 and upgraded internal storage capacity, and late last year it got another small bump with newer, more power efficient Ivys.

So, I don't anticipate any striking changes on this front. No new design changes, no new ports (what would they be? HDMI? That's what Thunderbolt is for. And where would they go?) and no major new components to screw with an already stellar formula. They'll get Haswell when it arrives in late Q2, which will give them a nice speed boost and a better power consumption ratio, and with upgraded graphics they'll be even more capable machines. I don't even see a price drop - Apple has never sold a laptop for less than $1K and I don't expect them to start now because people are more than willing to pay it. I'm not in the camp that gives the Air a Retina display, either, which you'll understand in a bit.

My hope against hope? An LTE radio. Likely? I honestly don't know. They've screwed around with it before, and now would be the time to do it, but making iCloud mandatory means a lot of bits are getting pushed and pulled in the background, and I don't know how much data people expect to use on their laptops, but I bet it's not that much. Consider this a sad "not likely."

The Macbook Pro with Retina Display

My feeling is that the current-gen MBPR is kind of regarded as this line's iPad 3 - worth getting out the display, but not powerful enough to push the pixels to it. It's fast, no doubt, but not fast enough to warrant the Pro moniker, especially when you factor in the SSD - for this not to be the fastest laptop you can buy from Apple is a shame, but it's not - it's the 13" Air!

It's more powerful, no doubt, but it doenst have the necessary graphics to power the display, so traditional actions feel more sluggish and more resourced are consumed for every action. The 15" fares the best, but it relies on the additional discrete chip to do a lot more heavy lifting than it should, which leaves the 13" looking like a guy out of ammo.

Haswell, and its upgraded graphics, should fix that problem. They'll get new chips, new graphics in all models, and the price will go down. That'll be essential, because...

The Regular Macbook Pro

...will not exist after this year.

I was kind of expecting this to happen last year at the unveiling of the 13". When Schiller said "the new 13" Macbook Pro" and stopped before qualifying it with the "Retina" designation, I thought it was true, but it was just a case of misspeaking.

Or a freudian slip, because it's becoming a reality was imminent.

Come on, think about it. The Air is the best consumer laptop in the world. It has an integrated SSD, standard - a high-res screen, standard - more than adequate power, and Thunderbolt and USB3 for networking and adapters for older busses. It's forward thinking - no optical drive, no hard drive, ridiculous battery life, nothing holding it back. It's a keeper, and people are loving it.

The Macbook Pro Retina, with the updates it will get this year, will be the best professional laptop in the world. It has an integrated SSD, standard - the best display in a laptop that runs an actual operating system, standard - Haswell architecture and powerful integrated graphics, and Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and HDMI for networking and adapters for older busses. It's forward thinking - no optical drive, no hard drive, ridiculous battery life, nothing holding it back. Already its reviews are stellar, even with not enough power - imagine what people will say about it when it's got the engine to match the casing?

And then you've got the Macbook Pro. It is not the best at anything, not even in Apple's own lineup.

It has an HDD, standard, with an option to install an encased SSD, but no option to use Fusion like the desktops, so they don't even have that advantage, making them the slowest laptops Apple sells.

It's display is the model for the Airs, but the Airs that are two inches smaller, making the Pro's displays the worst displays Apple currently sells. Seriously, 1280 by 800 for a 13" laptop? It's almost embarrassing.

It's got Ivy Bridge, Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, FireWire 800 and SDXC. You might be wondering how it can fit all of thosethings, and it can do that because it has a freaking optical drive, and that seems weird because it's the only product Apple makes that still has one besides the Mac Pro, which is a great category to belong to.

It's tied to old technology. It's in between two star siblings, and they're so good as to render the third unreccomendable. Apple doesn't like selling products it can't recommend people to buy, and that's why I think hat by the end of the year, the REtina MBP's are going to be sold without qualification - there will be Airs and Pros.

Think about that - anyone in 2014 who buys a laptop from Apple will get an SSD and will not get an optical drive. Is it just me, or does that feel much earlier than I anticipated such a thing would happen?

Also, is it just me, or am I really excited for that to happen?

The Lineup

In order to do this, they'll need to cut the price of the rMBP substantially. I'm guessing they get the...wait, is that really how much it costs?

Current Apple Laptop Lineup (Minus the regular MBP)

  • 11" MB Air - $999-1099
  • 13" MB Air - $1199-1399
  • 13" rMB Pro - $1499-1699
  • 15" rMB Pro - $2199-2799

It's like I never even looked at that before! They really don't need to take down the price of the 13" Pro at all, just bring the 15" down to $1799 and that'll do it.

  • 11" MB Air - $999-1099
  • 13" MB Air - $1199-1399
  • 13" MB Pro - $1499-1699
  • 15" MB Pro - $1799-2399

...holy shit, Merry Christmas.