Is MacBook Pro the future of the Apple desktop?

How good does a notebook need to get before a pro desktop isn't really required?

Apple, Mac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, Intel, Kirby Lake
Credit: Apple

We’ve been waiting a long, long time for new Apple pro desktops, but it’s beginning to look very like Apple’s completely focusing on the MacBook Pro at the high end, with iMac as a consumer desktop and MacBook at the low end.

Mobile Mac, desktop class

I guess that is one way of looking at Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities claim that Apple plans to increase the max memory configuration in MacBook Pro models to 32GB in the latter half of the year.

That’s the kind of memory you’d expect in order to make Apple’s high-end notebooks even more effective professional tools. Particularly when combined with Kuo’s prediction that Apple will put quad core Intel Kaby Lake chips inside the high end MacBook Pro.

While delayed, Intel’s latest 14-nanometer chips have a few advantages that appear to dovetail well with what Apple thinks we want:

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

Big ding dongle deal

Apple attracted lots of criticism for its wholesale embrace of USB-C in the latest MacBook Pros, but its decision to adopt Kaby Lake with its integrated support for the standard confirms what a good move this was.

“We’re absolutely more sure than ever that we’ve done the right thing,” Apple’s VP marketing, Phil Schiller said when discussing the move to USB-C.

It seems reasonable to anticipate the standard will be introduced across all future Macs – and now is a good time to purchase USB-USB-C hubs to help your eventual migration to Macs that use it, as Apple is selling these at generous discounts to boost adoption. The move has kick-started this section of the industry.

Kuo also thinks Apple will update the 12-inch MacBook with Kaby Lake processors and a 16GB of RAM option.

What’s really interesting here was noted by Apple Insider: “In order to achieve high memory allotments and keep unplugged battery life performance on par with existing MacBook Pro models, Apple will need to move to an emerging memory technology like LPDDR4 or DDR4L,” they wrote.

This means high-end memory, high end RAM and high end Kaby Lake Macs. These will be desktop class machines.

Bell chimes for MacBook Air

The analyst has another prediction that may be of interest – that Apple will discount the 13-inch MacBook Pro model that lacks a Touch Bar in order to gradually replace the MacBook Air in its line up.

Demand for the Touch Bar MacBook Air remains strong, Kuo said. Manufacturing capacity has been raised by 50 percent in order to keep up with demand, he explained. It is interesting that despite claims Mac sales are slack, when compared to the industry Apple continues to holds its own.

“Compared to the industry 2011-16, you can't even say Mac is on a downward trend - yet,” points out long time Apple stock watcher, AAPL Tree.

Et tu, Mac Pro?

What we don’t know yet is if Apple’s vision for its platform extends to the Mac Pro. After all, if it can create incredibly powerful MacBook Pro machines that work in tandem with a highly effective peripherals I/O like USB-C, then is there any need for them? Most of the expandability you expect from a desktop can now be matched by USB-C devices connected to a notebook.

Three years since the Mac Pro was replaced, I’m certain many Mac users want to find out the truth behind Apple’s promise that “great desktops are coming”. Will these be Mac Pros, iMacs? Is the MacBook Pro the future of Apple’s high end Mac market? For the reasons above I think it could be, but I also think Mac users deserve to know.

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