New Apple MacBook Pros enter production as post-PC changes IT

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] is said to be ramping up production of next-generation MacBook Pros in 13-inch and 15-inch configurations as it prepares to upgrade its notebooks across May/June.

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Carry me home

The report claims the company will begin to mass produce a 15-inch model MacBook Pro in April with a 13.3-inch model set to hit mass production in June.

While this report does emanate from Digitimes, it isn't unexpected.

"As Apple will start mass producing its 15-inch MacBook Pro in April, sources from the upstream supply chain have pointed out that the company's orders for the 13.3-inch model are far higher than those of the 15-inch, indicating that Apple is more focused on the 13.3-inch notebook segment. However, the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro will not start mass production until June," the report explains.

Takin' the Ivy Bridge

It's important to note the timing of these releases, which chime nicely in tune to the anticipated release of new Intel Ivy Bridge chipsets for use inside the devices.

Very low-power Ivy Bridge chips aren't expected to debut until June -- the equivalent processors to those presently used in the MacBook Air.

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[ABOVE: IDC's latest data shows the rise of the mobile age. Even more data in interactive format at this link.]

Thinner, no optical drive?

That's interesting as the new Macs are also expected to be thinner and to adopt a more MacBook Air-like appearance, including lack of an optical drive. The new Macs are also expected to feature a Retina Display, potentially supplied by Sharp -- a unique display technology likely to drive even more to switch to the Mac.

Apple's move to upgrade its notebooks and to make the things more mobile comes as the smartphone/iPad-driven paradigm shift hits the broader PC industry.

The latest IDC report predicts iPads and smartphones will dominate the industry of connected devices by 2016, when the number of connected devices is expected to reach 1.84 billion by 2016. Windows PC marketshare will fall from 35.9 percent to 25.1 percent.

ARM-driven devices will grab 31.1 percent share while iOS devices will grab 17.3 percent of the global market for smart connected devices.

IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell said: "Smart, connected, compute-capable [phones and tablets] are playing an increasingly important role in nearly every individual's life."

Why iCloud matters so much

Ultimately the apps will govern future success in the sector. "We expect a large percentage of application developers to continue to focus their efforts on iOS, despite the platform's smaller overall market share, because iOS end users have proven more willing to pay for high-quality apps," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices.

The other explosion that's taking place and changing the industry is the trend to own multiple mobile devices -- an iPod touch, an iPad and an iPhone, for example.

"We are in the multi-device age," continued O'Donnell, "and we believe the number of people who use multiple devices will only continue to increase. The trick, moving forward, will be to integrate all these devices into a unified whole through use of personal cloud-type applications and services. That's the real challenge of what we have often called the 'PC Plus' era."

PC Plus, or minus PC?

Apple's iCloud service is an able illustration that the company is developing an ecosystem to deliver on that needed integration, at least in the consumer markets. Enterprise users currently face a dizzying array of cloud service providers, driving some industry players to begin work on establishing industry standards to enable these services to interoperate effectively.

Apple is expected to begin producing 100,000-150,000 units of the new MacBook Pros at first. This figure is revealing in contrast to the sheer numbers of iPads the company is selling right now. Foxconn apparently intends shipping up to 15 million iPads in the second quarter, even while Sharp's display and component production ramps up to replace those parts currently manufactured by TPK Holding and Wintek.

Perhaps it's time to count iPads as PCs after all? 

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