Personal Computers

Apple Fiddles With MacBook Pro, iMac Features and Pricing

Apple on Tuesday announced performance enhancements for the MacBook Pro and a new configuration and price changes for the iMac.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro with its Force Touch trackpad and improved flash storage, battery and graphics performance is available immediately online, starting at US$1,999.

The Force Touch trackpad first appeared in the latest 13-inch MacBook. It includes the taptic engine found in the Apple Watch, which provides tactile feedback for tasks. It also includes Force Touch features that let users customize the pressure sensitivity of the trackpad.

The 256 gigabytes of flash storage make the new MacBook Pro 2.5 times faster than the previous generation. It also has longer battery life — up to nine hours — and its AMD Radeon R9 M370x graphics card is 80 percent faster than the one in the previous MacBook Pro.

It comes with 16 GB of RAM and a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor running at 2.2 GHz.

New iMac Config

Apple also announced a new configuration for its 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. The 5K display has 14.7 million pixels — 67 percent more pixels that a 4K TV set.

Selling for $1,999 and available online immediately, the newly configured iMac is built around a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor running at 3.3 GHz, and it includes AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics.

iMac with Retina 5K Display

iMac with Retina 5K Display

It has 8 GB of RAM, a 1 terabyte Fusion drive, four USB 3.0 ports, and two 20Gbps Thunderbird 2 ports that are twice as fast as previous versions of the technology.

Apple also decreased the price of the high-end iMac by $200, to $2,299. Base configurations include a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor running at 3.5 GHz, AMD Radeon R9 290x graphics, 8 GB of RAM, and 1TB of Fusion drive storage.

As with all Apple computer products, the new MacBook Pros and iMacs include the company’s liefstyle and productivity software: Photos, iMovie, Garageband and iWork.

Price Pressure?

With these latest hardware moves, Apple is looking ahead.

“These improvements are all about Apple getting ready for the back-to-school selling season by upgrading their products to be even more competitive,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst atMoor Insights and Strategy, told TechNewsWorld.

They’re also about growing the Apple ecosystem, observed Creative Strategies President Tim Bajarin.

“These are important upgrades to these products that will help Apple continue to grow the Mac Market,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Price pressure across the personal computer industry also may be influencing Apple.

“I think the price drops reflect the state of the broader PC industry,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“PCS are still important to Apple and other PC OEMs, but not as important to consumers — especially the next billion that will be connecting to the Internet,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“With lower prices and added power, consumers have more incentive to buy into Apple and the Mac ecosystem, which translates into helping Apple continue to outperform their PC counterparts, and allows Apple to grow their customer base,” Bajarin pointed out.

Still Important

While Apple’s PC business isn’t as large as its mobile device lines, it remains an important part of the company.

“Now that it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that tablets aren’t eating the PC in this decade, I think Macs are important to Apple’s future strategy,” said Moorhead.

“From a business standpoint, they aren’t even close to the same size as the phone market” he added, “but having that high-end PC device is central to Apple’s desire to own computing wherever.”

It’s also important for expanding the company’s presence beyond the consumer market.

“With the greater focus on corporate sales by Tim Cook, it’s important to have competitive products at the high end of the laptop and desktop lines,” Reticle Research Principal Analyst Ross Rubin told TechNewsWorld.

Apple’s position in the PC market today has a certain irony to it, noted Charles King, the principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“The new MacBook starts at nearly twice the cost of equivalent laptops — and, innovations aside, luxury pricing means that Apple’s market focus is far narrower than most other vendors,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“From a standpoint of both revenues and earnings, PCs play a minimal role in the company’s business, so it can play the game and market however it likes,” King said, “but there’s a certain irony in the fact that a company that found its original success in making products ‘for the rest of us’ appears to have found its true calling in being IT’s premium luxury brand.”

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Apple already has a huge stake in their market. Many splurge to get their products (including me), even if they’re grossly overpriced. Take my article on iPhone 6 fans lining up outside of a Charleston, SC Apple Store as an example: The pricing didn’t matter to the hundreds of people wrapped around the building. They were just excited to get something new! Product innovation might be the key to growing their market, not changing prices.

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