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MacBook and MacBook Pro release cycle analysis - September 2008 updates likely
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.
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:
History 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:
Note 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)
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.