WWDC: Apple’s Kaby Lake MacBook upgrades coming soon

A report claims new Apple notebooks to debut at or around WWDC 2017

Apple, Mac, macOS, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air
Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

Apple plans to announce upgraded Mac notebooks with Kaby Lake processors at WWDC 2017, a report claims. Regular readers will know we’ve been expecting Apple to migrate to the new chip, but Intel has only just begun shipping suitable processors, hence the delay.

What is Kaby Lake?

Kaby Lake is the seventh generation of the Core series chips. It’s a 14-nanometer processor which has been designed to deliver high quality graphics without a GPU. The smaller processor die and GPU advantages should make for battery life/performance advantages. Other enhancements within these chips include:

  • Fully integrated support for USB-C Generation 2, (G2 USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 support)
  • Native HDCP 2.2 support
  • 4K video support.

We had hoped Apple would stow one of these new processors inside of the recently-introduced MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, but this didn’t happen. It has previously been reported that Intel could only ship suitable versions of these processors starting earlier this year.

Upgrading the range

Speaking earlier this year, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would update its MacBook Pro with Kaby Lake CPUs and up to 32GB of desktop-class RAM. He promises this would be “the most significantly redesigned product this year”.  The analyst also said these processors would be introduced in new model MacBooks.

Bloomberg seems to have confirmed the speculation, reporting that Apple will introduce a new MacBook Pro model with Kaby Lake, along with Kaby Lake powered MacBooks.  In a surprising twist, it looks like the company has decided to keep the MacBook Air in its line-up.

“The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple’s cheapest, remain surprisingly strong,” it said.

It makes sense to predict USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 will be deployed in these machines, so it’s a shame if you failed to exploit Apple’s generous USB-C accessories deal while it was available.

New Mac Pros aren’t expected until 2018 at the earliest, with an upgraded iMac scheduled for before then.

Good for business?

There’s little doubt these powerful new Macs will deliver the kind of horsepower professional users need.

At the high end, Kaby Lake MacBook Pro models will be able to handle anything the most demanding user wants to throw at them. They will also like it that the Touchbar on the MacBook Pro is a real productivity boost. (I use it a lot when working with Microsoft Office applications, as the system makes it so much easier to get to the tools I need.)

Lower down the scale, the upgraded MacBook Air will provide enterprise users with a compelling alternative to Surface devices.

Not only will these be compatible with existing iOS deployments, but they will provide all the power and features of a notebook Mac – including the capacity to run a real version of Windows, and to run Windows apps that are not made available through Microsoft’s store, such as internally-developed enterprise software.

Holding the fort

Apple’s apparent decision to introduce these new Macs at WWDC is probably intended to reassure developers that the company remains deeply invested in the Mac. It last introduced new Macs to WWDC in 2013, when it launched the Mac Pro and an updated MacBook Air.

WWDC 2017 seems set to be a busy one. We expect the company to demonstrate new versions of iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS. We also anticipate numerous big announcements around services, Apple Pay and AR at the show, which kicks off with a keynote June 5.

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