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Apple's new laptop heralds 'Air-izing' of all MacBook Pros

Retina-like display could hit the 13-in. MacBook Pro by the fourth quarter, say analysts

June 14, 2012 04:09 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple's new Retina MacBook Pro is a harbinger of future changes to the company's laptop line, analysts said today.

And those changes could come as soon as October.

"It's pretty clear that as some of the technology in the MacBook Pro with Retina becomes more available and at a lower cost, they will drive those technologies down through the rest of the line," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research.

Apple launched the new MacBook Pro Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and touted the notebook as thinner and lighter than the standard MacBook Pro, boasted of its high-resolution display -- dubbed "Retina" to match the marketing label used for the pixel-packed screens on the newest iPhone and iPad -- and highlighted the move to SSD (solid-state drive) storage.

Like the MacBook Air before it, the Retina MacBook Pro also lacks an optical drive. That omission, along with the shift to a SSD rather than a traditional platter-based hard disk drive, let Apple shrink the thickness of the laptop.

Most early reviews of the Retina MacBook Pro have been glowing, and have universally singled out the display, which sports a total of 5.1 million pixels

While the MacBook Air has long been the benchmark thin-and-light laptop -- to the point where Windows PC makers have taken to trying to replicate it with "ultrabooks" -- the MacBook Pro line has been a very traditional kind of notebook.

That will change.

"Every once in a while, Apple completely rethinks things," said Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research. "This [MacBook Pro] is the first of an entire overhaul."

Both Gottheil and Gillett pointed to how Apple handled the MacBook Air, which debuted in January 2008 for between $1,799 and $3,098, as the template.

It wasn't until October 2010 that Apple fleshed out the Air line-up with both 11- and 13-in. screens, and dropped prices. The least-expensive 11-in. MacBook Air was priced at $999, the first Mac notebook under the $1,000 barrier, while the priciest 13-in. was reduced to $1,599.

Analysts see the new MacBook Pro as like the original $1,799 MacBook Air: Expensive, packed with the newest technology and using Apple's most-forward-looking design.

Its DNA -- the omission of hard disk and optical drives, the thinner form factor, the high-resolution screen -- will be used to clone a revamped MacBook Pro line. At some point.

"They don't have enough supply of the Retina screens to use it across the entire line," Gillett said, explaining why Apple limited the redesign to just one model.

For proof, one has only to look at the shipping delays for the Retina MacBook Pro.



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