Why doesn't Apple just upgrade the Mac more often?

Apple's Mac sales have been falling and analysts expect that people are waiting on platform updates.

There was a time when the Mac vs PC debate was all the rage. The “I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC” commercials have been etched into the minds of people of a certain age and inclination. The “PC,” as Windows-based computers were referred to, was always the most popular option owing to price and flexibility, among other advantages. The “Mac” was very popular in its own right, but the high price and exclusivity created its own set of problems.

The debate still stands today, but to a more limited extent. There are PCs today that are at least as expensive, as well-built and as well-designed as a Mac. Microsoft has advanced significantly with Windows and while they’re still battling ecosystem issues (something that Apple has absolute control over), I think that Windows 10 is the better OS. MacOS Sierra is, of course, still in beta.

Before you get out the pitchforks and prepare to lynch me however, please note that I do have a healthy respect for MacOS and actually use both El Capitan and Windows 10 on a daily basis.

Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13, a worthy MacBook alternative

Since Apple has tighter control on its ecosystem, they can do things that Microsoft can only dream of doing. Continuity in itself is a game-changing feature that few will appreciate till they actually use it. The ability to answer calls and messages, seamlessly share data between devices, etc. is incredibly convenient. And this is what the Mac vs PC debate comes down to today.

Both operating systems have their pros and cons and the one you pick depends on the one you like or are comfortable with. If either platform meets your needs, there’s no reason to argue about it.

OS X vs Windows Tech2 720

But this is on the software front. When it comes to hardware, there’s no doubt that PC takes the cake. Apple is notoriously, and inexplicably, behind on its hardware updates and I, for one, can’t fathom why they don’t just upgrade CPUs and motherboards. Why does a platform upgrade warrant a new device and an official announcement?

Consider the following information:

  • Mac Pro: Intel Ivy Bridge-E CPU, last updated in 2013
  • Mac Mini: Intel Haswell CPU, last updated in 2014
  • MacBook Pro 15:Intel Haswell CPU, last updated in 2014.
  • MacBook Air: Intel Broadwell CPU, no retina display

This is the list of devices that Apple hasn’t even bothered to update for more than a year now. The Mac Pro, which is the only truly capable device for demanding applications is still stuck on a third generation CPU (we’re on the sixth generation now and the seventh is on its way).

Apple Mac Pro

The Mac Mini, Apple’s cheapest offering, is also stuck on a fourth generation chip. The only devices that have are actually getting updates are the iMacs, which received a complete overhaul in the form of 4K and 5K P3 displays and sixth generation CPUs. The MacBook Pro 13-inch model also received force touch in a refresh in 2015, but kept its fifth generation CPU. The svelte 12-inch MacBook also receives the latest hardware and updates.

Is it any wonder then that Apple’s sales are falling? A recent IDC report indicates that Apple has ceded its fourth spot in global PC shipments to ASUS. Sales have fallen from 4.8 million units to 4.4 million units in Q2 2016.

Apple analysts, including Ming-Chi Kuo, has suggested that people are waiting for the refreshed devices to come out sometime this year. To be honest, I don’t think that should matter so much. The Mac Pro and Mini are in desperate need of an update, but the rest of the devices are sufficiently capable in their own right.

Apple MacBook Pro Martin Hajek function display

An upgrade from Broadwell to Skylake while significant in terms of graphical performance, has little to offer the average user. There are rumours of upcoming MacBooks with OLED panels and maybe more devices with Force Touch trackpads, but what of them? You’re still essentially getting the same device. An OLED strip might be useful, as will a force touch trackpad, but they're only as good as the OS that

Apple’s strength has always been the ecosystem it offered and the compatibility within that ecosystem. The new Macs will come and go, it’s MacOS and iOS that will sell Macs. Apple needs to stop making every hardware upgrade an event and just upgrade.

It’s just an upgrade, not an earth-shattering revelation.

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