Whether it’s unveiling the world’s thinnest notebook from a manilla envelope or introducing a feature as mind-bendingly clever as Universal Control, Apple knows how to take us all by surprise.
However, sometimes, the gang from Apple Park do it for entirely the wrong reason.
This happened during the WWDC 2022 keynote last week. Among an avalanche of exciting new software updates, a brand-new piece of Apple silicon, and inexplicably watchable 120FPS slow-mo Craig Federighi, sat an announcement that has left everyone totally confused.
It was the launch of the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro.
The weirdest announcement at WWDC 2022
The M2 chip and M2 MacBook Air were big surprises for yours truly. As I’d noted several times in the lead-up to WWDC, I genuinely thought we’d see that stuff later this year.
Not so. The latest iteration of Apple silicon and the next-generation MacBook Air were clearly ready.
As it turns out, something else was ready, too.
As John Turnus strode slowly and confidently across the floor of one of Apple’s many empty rooms (there’s a distinct lack of furniture in Apple Park, isn’t there?) he revealed that the MacBook Air wasn’t the only Mac that would receive the M2 chip. No, it would be joined by the world’s second best-selling laptop – the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That’s right – Apple’s latest, brightest, newest chip would be heading into the only MacBook Pro that has retained the Touch Bar and a design which is nearly six years old.
Cue all of the internet completely losing its shit.
What’s going on? Why didn’t they put that M2 chip into the 24-inch iMac instead? Or the Mac mini? Surely that would have made more sense?
As always, there’s far more to this than meets the eye.
Gurman got it right
Back in February, I responded to a leak from Apple rumour mill veteran, Mark Gurman. He’d revealed that a new “entry-level MacBook Pro with M2 chip” would arrive later this year.
Details were scarce. It wouldn’t feature ProMotion, Gurman told us, but it would finally do away with the Touch Bar.
Ok, so he was slightly off with this one, but there’s no doubting that this is the new entry-level MacBook Pro to which he was referring. It sits beneath the 14- and 16-inch variants in terms of specs and price bracketing and is far more closely aligned with the new MacBook Air.
Gurman’s report got me very excited back then. I noted that this theoretical entry-level MacBook Pro would have been the perfect machine for me six years prior. That was when I started my first business and could only afford the horrible ’Escape Key’ edition that was plagued by poor performance and that dreadful butterfly keyboard.
This, I think, is the reason Apple has kept it within the lineup.
Why is Apple still selling – and upgrading – the 13-inch MacBook Pro?
Apple told us last week that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the world’s second best-selling laptop. That’s why it’s still on the shelves and still first to the post for the most important chip upgrades.
Think about it. Apple is clearly selling these laptops by the bucketload. It’s using a chassis that has been around since the big MacBook Pro design overhaul of 2016. This means that every time one rolls off the production line, it is slightly more profitable.
Who’s buying them? I think the answer is right under your – or my – nose. It’s people like my 6-years-ago self. I’d have snapped one of these up back then.
This MacBook Pro really is a bit like that ‘Escape Key’ version I limped along with during the early days of building my business. There’s just one big difference: this one is knock-your-trousers-off powerful. That’s what makes it such a tempting proposition for buyers.
It also carries the MacBook Pro name. Whether or not you think it deserves it is irrelevant – that’s the product line in which Apple has placed it, and for many people, it’s enough to draw their attention away from the M2 MacBook Air.
I would guess that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a hit with bulk buyers, too. If you’ve got a room full of designers and developers, are you really going to spend a fortune on kitting them out with 14-inch MacBook Pros when such a capable 13-inch version exists? I think not.
Apple is a business with expectant shareholders. It needs to continually drive high profits and maintain steady growth. Products like the 13-inch MacBook Pro exemplify their approach to the market and are the reason they’re one of the most successful businesses of all time.
To us, it looks biblically stupid. It’s weirdly close to the fanless and more desirable M2 MacBook Air. Spec it up, and the far more capable 14-inch MacBook Pro is within grabbing distance. It still has the bloody Touch Bar!
But Apple isn’t thinking about it like that. It is simply squeezing every last ounce of profit and market share from one of its best-selling laptops. Trust me – you’d do the same.