MacBook and MacBook Pro release cycle analysis - September 2008 updates likely

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Aug
26

By: switchtoamac at: 1:50 PM on August 26, 2008 | Comments (12)

Whenever someone considers purchasing something new one of the initial reactions is to determine if the current model(s) will be updated in the near future. This true for automobiles, gadgets, electronics and of course computers. This post will provide insight into how Apple updates and refreshes their line of Macintosh computers with particular emphasis on the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.

Secrecy is the Apple way
Apple is known for keeping future releases under tight lip. The firm's culture is shrouded in secrecy and many within the company learn of new products and software the day they're announced to the public. This lack of public information leads to many discussion board topics about potential Mac updates. Just visit a site like MacRumors and you'll see a slew of forum discussions about people asking when new Mac models will be released. There are both positives and negatives to this secrecy. On one hand, it keeps competitors in the dark while generating pent-up demand while on the other, it causes frustration amongst potential buyers.

History of the MacBook
The MacBook (check out our MacBook Guide) was introduced on May 16, 2006. Since that time, Apple has released four updates to the line. Here's a history of the releases:

macbook_release_analysis_aug2008.pngHistory of the MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro (check out our MacBook Pro Guide) was first introduced on January 10, 2006. Since that time, Apple has released four key updates to the line. Here's a history of the releases:

Thumbnail image for macbook_pro_release_analysis_aug2008.pngNote that the April 24 and May 16, 2006 releases were simply an addition and configuration option the MacBook Pro line respectively. The Late 2007release offered the 2.6GHz processor and larger hard drive option. Therefore, the MacBook Pro has only seen four "real" updates.

Next is Montevina a.k.a Centrino 2
The next likely platform for use in the next wave of MacBook and MacBook Pro updates is Montevina, the fifth-generation Centrino platform which has now been branded Centrino 2. The 'Centrino 2' name was chosen because it's based on a second-generation Core 2 Duo Penryn processor. Centrino 2 represents an evolutional progression to the Centrino line thanks to the 45nm process, advanced power savings, increased performance, DDR3 memory, low power consumption, and support for quad-core processors (an ideal offering for next generation portable systems).

The platform was scheduled for release in mid 2008 but was delayed until July 15 at which time Intel announced the following key features:
  • faster Penryn Core 2 Duo processors
  • Intel Mobile 4 Express series chipset (Cantiga)
  • up to 6MB of Level 2 cache
  • 1066MHz front side bus
  • GMA X4500 graphics integrated graphics
  • support for DDR3 1066MHz memory
  • support for WiMax (option)
There are five new Core 2 Duos: P8400, P8600, P9500, T9400 and T9600, with speeds of 2.26GHz, 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz, 2.53GHz and 2.8GHz respectively. The P8400 and P8600 have 3MB of L2 cache, the rest have 6MB. There is also a Core 2 Extreme X9100 that runs at 3.06GHz but is unlikely to land in a Mac portable due to its higher power consumption. The P models have a 25-watt power envelope while the T processors operate at 35W.

Compared to the chips in the current line of MacBook and MacBook Pro models, the new processors will most likely have a speed range from 2.26GHz to 2.8GHZ and pack a 1066MHz front side bus. A nice improvement over the existing processors used in current generation models which range from 2.1GHz to 2.6GHz running with a 800Mhz front side bus.

Next updates - when?
Many are eager to find out the date of the next updates. Although we'll only find out the day they are released, we can analyze prior release data to identify potential release dates. Although not the most scientific method, averages can be used to provide this insight.

The historical data shows that the MacBook Pro updates lead the MacBook updates. The historical lag time of the MacBook makes its data less accurate for predictive purposes. Therefore, it is logical to rely on the MacBook Pro data as a better indicator. More recently, it's easy to see that the MacBook and MacBook Pro have been updated on the same day. Apple is likely to continue this trend moving forward. Given the variance between the average number of days between the MacBook and MacBook Pro releases, we feel that the better indicator to use is the MacBook Pro data. Also note that this analysis excludes the January 2006 MacBook Pro announcement because this was the only time in the history of these two lines that a product was pre-announced. Furthermore, there wasn't an official releases date from Apple, only a notice that shipments would begin during the week of February 14, 2006.

The above data demonstrates that Apple tends to wait an average of 116 days for the MacBook and 56 days for the MacBook Pro updates to hit the market after Intel releases the new processors for these lines. If the week of February 14, 2006 is included, the average for the MacBook Pro decreases from 56 days to 52 days.

Impact of Back-To-School promotion
Apple's current Back-To-School promotion ends on Monday September 15, 2008. Apple has never released MacBook or MacBook Pro updates in the midst of a Back-To-School promotion. This doesn't mean that they won't! An argument for releasing new MacBook or MacBook Pro models during the promotion would be that Apple has released new iMac (September 6, 2006 and August 7, 2007) and Mac Pro models (August 7, 2007) during a prior back to school promotion. The 2006 promotion ended on September 16, 2006 whereas the 2007 promotion ended on September 16, 2007.

September 2008 MacBook and MacBook Pro updates likely
If you add 56 days to July 15, 2008 you get a date of Monday September 8, 2008. Apple is known to announce updates on Tuesdays. Rumors hitting the web over the past few days have hinted at a possible Apple 'Special Event' on Tuesday September 9, 2008. MacRumors published a report today that Apple may release a wide range of product updates (iPods, Macs, displays) in early September.

Based on our detailed analysis and recent rumor buzz, we highlight two potential target time points for MacBook and MacBook Pro updates:
  • September 9, 2008 or
  • the week of September 15, 2008.
Time will tell if this analysis is within range. There's no doubt that updates to these lines are on the horizon and should be released within weeks.

12 Reader Comments

Analysis appreciated. I've been holding out for a few months and think the prudent thing to do is wait a bit longer. If new MacBooks are released in September or even October I'll buy the day of the release. Not sure if I can wait more than that.

Amazingly helpful! Thanks! I'm on the cusp of getting a new laptop and this convinces me to wait for sure... even with the new promos for free iPod Touch,and free printer, waiting makes more sense, especially as I keep reading about the problems with the MacBook Pro's screen (vertical stripes).

That analysis was very helpful most other sites don’t give which you can relate to. I'm definitely going to wait! Thanks

Does anyone know the shipping history of of these products? Do Macbooks and Macbook Pro's typically ship on the same day that they are announced, or is there a lag in between the time the new product is announced and the time that customers can buy one? Thanks in advance.

Bill,

The charts above list the dates the lines have been updated. Note that whenever Apple refreshes Macs, they are available for purchase and ordering via the online Apple Store that same day. The exception was in January 2006 when Apple announced the MacBook Pro at Macworld. Shipments began in February 2006.

Any more word on 9.9.08 vs 9.16.08? Just started grad school, and trying to decide when to buy. I'm really hoping the new macbook will have LED backlight and more powerful graphics than current gen...even better if the MB Air can get a bump in speed & capacity (love the form factor, but a few too many compromises for a primary pc).

That said, I can't afford to wait too long before buying...I'm really going to be miffed if I miss out on the free ipod promo only to find out that the new macbooks won't be available within my timeframe, or if the new features somehow aren't worth the trade-off! The suspense is killing me!

Tim,

I hear ya, it's a difficult to decision to make. The purpose of this article was to highlight that updates to the MacBook and MacBook Pro are overdue and should be out in the near future. The analysis highlighted the two dates above but note that Apple may delay rolling out revisions for a few weeks perhaps into October.

I think the current back to school deal is hard to pass up. Not only do you get a free iPod (touch or nano), you can tack on the following promotions:

- get up to $100 off select printers
- get up to 50% off Apple software
- get $30 off your first year of MobileMe
- get free engraving on iPod
- get free shipping on purchases over $50

I think the deal is amazing and holding out on hopes for a favorable tradeoff can be a bit risky. Note that Apple is holding a special even on September 9 and it is expected that new iPods will be rolled out. Keep in mind that if new iPods released that day, they will not be eligible for the promotion. This is exactly what happened in September 2007. Read the following two articles for insight:

http://switchtoamac.com/site/apple-new-ipods-announced-on-september-5-2007-are-not-eligible-for-the-back-to-school-promotion.html

http://switchtoamac.com/site/new-ipods-before-september-15-2008-will-not-eligible-under-the-terms-and-conditions-of-the-2008-back-to-school-promotion.html

On one hand, you could make a purchase prior to event and not open/use them. Be sure to read up on Apple's Return and Refund policy (http://store.apple.com/Catalog/US/Images/salespolicies.html) prior to making your purchase. If Apple doesn't roll out new Macs at the September 9 event or a week later as I postulate that they might, then you have your stuff prior to the expiration of the promotion.

It really boils down to a judgement call and a risk versus reward analysis. Good luck with your decision!

I was just about to buy a mid-range macbook last week, but turns out my local reseller was out of stock. And now that the macbook has just been restocked, I've been holding out on getting it because of the possible updates to Apple's line of macbooks.It's not that urgent for me to get my hands on the macbook, but just getting extremely excited about my switch to a mac. Yes, I have decided its about time for me to move over from the Windows platform.
I've read about speculations about the macbooks getting a new aluminium case instead of plastic. Personally I don't think that might happen, but an update to the processor, platform, gfx etc is definately a welcome.

I hope they'll make some announcements on the updates on 9/9.

I just bought a Macbook pro - it's still in the box from Apple, it arrived on Monday 9/8... I'm thinking of leaving it in the box and returning it. I'm really nervous about the NVIDIA graphics chip issues. With how much this 17" cost, I can't afford to buy another new mac in 3 years if the graphics chip blows! Does anyone have any thoughts about the NVIDIA issue? I called Apple and 3 people stated that they had never even heard of any problems with the chip, which I find very hard to believe...

Anyway, I was thinking of returning this one and waiting until the new macbook pro models are released. Wish I knew when they would be released!!

By the way, I notice a lot of macbook pros in the Apple Refurb store. Might the potential update be the reason for all the available refurbs?

Thanks for the great article!

Hey I just bought a MacBook this week. Hadn't even heard about the new macbooks coming out because I was formerly a PC owner and needed a new comp ASAP after what a believe was a virus and the BSOD attacked. Anyways, It's now past that date that you and others have predicted. Any new news? I'm typing this post on the MacBook and wondering if I should or even can return it and hold out. I want aluminum casing :|

Brian,

The purpose of this article was to highlight that MacBook and MacBook Pro updates are on the horizon. By analyzing the release cycle, we can see that they should be released in the very near future. Note that I posted this article on August 25.
More recently, there have been rumors about an October release.

I suppose when I performed this analysis I should have taken into account Apple's 14 day return policy (that slipped my mind!). So if we tack that onto the end of the BTS promotion (which ended on the 15th) we get the 29th of September. Regardless, updates should be here soon.

I understand your pain. You're stuck in a situation where you needed a new computer and wanted to make the switch. I've gotten similar feedback my many others who have been itching to switch but have been holding out for new models.

Just be aware that when you return your MacBook within the alloted timeframe, you'll have to pay a restocking fee if there isn't anything wrong with it.

I bought one of the First Macbooks and I regretting doing so as this week it finally died before it reached 2 years old. I need to buy a macbook pro soon but now hearing about a possibility of them bringing out yet another update I guess i have to wait! Even if I really need it! I had soooo many problems with my Macbook 2006 I don't want the same problems to happen when i buy the new macbook pro 2008!

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