Apple has pushed the boundaries of the personal computer with its move to ARM-based computing. Many have followed the company already, while others are hoping to make that jump in the future. But if you're looking to upgrade to the latest MacBook in 2021, you'd be better off waiting. After all, Apple is.
The news on the release schedule (or the lack of releases) comes from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman :
“For Apple, all attention is on the fall, so the next several weeks are destined to be light on product news. We're about three months away from the next iPhone and Apple Watch models going on sale—along with the releases of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8, so stay tuned for plenty of news on those after the summer doldrums.”
In one sense this should not come as surprise. Apple's iPhone and iPad announcements are very much locked into an annual launch cycle, and while the ages may shift year to year, the September refresh for the iPhone and second-tier products is a date the geekerati can take to the bookies, while the late March slot is clearly the home of the iPad.
With Apple Silicon now set to be the sole source of processors for the Mac family (with Apple still using to move the whole line over by the end of 2022), Apple can break free of relying on Intel's roadmap and bring its own sense of rhythmic perfection to the release schedule.
That means the historically preferred late October slot should become as much of an anchor for Mac users as the early September slot is for iPhone users; a view backed up by the idea of Apple focussing only on these 'Fall Announcements.’
Which is great for Apple's fastidiousness, but it means consumers are facing an awkward decision.
Even with Intel's relatively erratic schedule, Apple's Mac team has delivered a number of mid-cycle updates, notably around core specs such as memory and storage, throughout the years. Many Apple watchers were expecting something along these lines during 2021… after all the first Apple Silicon powered MacBook Pro laptops were targeted towards the lower tier of MacBook Pro units.
While the M1 processor offers more power to an end-user than the equivalent Intel chip, and the entry-level MacBook Pro laptops launched in November last year would offer tangible advantages over the last Intel-powered MacBook Pros, they still represent the lower end of the Mac platform.
That leaves the Mac platform lingering on indecision island for another six months. Buy into last year's technology without a bump in specs that could have been delivered at WWDC, or wait till November and hope that Apple's next-generation will deliver the much vaunted new design with improved display, battery life, and a thinner design.
And that's assuming that stock will be easily obtainable. The ongoing silicon shortage is impacting the entire consumer electronics industry, production on the minLED screens is still ramping up in scale, and it's not possible to know how much stock on the M1 machines Apple is holding… it may be holding back any upgrades as long as possible to avoid osborning the existing stock.
Given the hoped for longevity of a new MacBook Pro, I would suggest that the wait for the new M1X machines and all the improved design choices makes them worth the wait.
But it's going to be a long wait.
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