Apple will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop later this year, ending a drought of Mac computers that has limited sales of the company’s longest-running line of devices, according to people familiar with the plans.
The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13-inches, will be a higher-resolution “Retina” version that Apple uses on other products, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing products still in development. Apple spokesman Bill Evans declined to comment.
The current MacBook Air, which costs $1,000, remains Apple’s only laptop without a high-resolution screen. The MacBook Air was last updated with a faster processor option last year, but hasn’t seen a major overhaul in several years. The 12-inch MacBook launched in 2015 was seen as a replacement to the MacBook Air, but its $1,300 starting price put it out of reach for some consumers. The new MacBook Air will be geared toward consumers looking for a cheaper Apple computer, but also schools that often buy laptops in bulk.
When Apple releases new Macs in the fall, it often does so in October, after the launch of new iPhones. The company is planning to debut three new iPhones, Apple Watches with larger screens, and new iPad Pros later this year, other people familiar with the plans said.
The Mac has been a steady seller, representing more than 11 percent of Apple sales in the last fiscal year, ahead of the iPad. However, some loyal users have complained that recent updates haven’t met their professional needs. Apple has sought to address this by releasing a high-end iMac Pro and a new MacBook Pro with an updated keyboard and faster processor options.
Still, in the fiscal third quarter this year, the company said it sold 3.7 million Macs, the fewest in a quarter since 2010. And Apple lags other companies in the education market. Chromebooks, cheaper laptops running Google’s Chrome operating system, accounted for 60 percent of devices shipped to K-12 U.S. education institutions in the final quarter of 2017, according to Futuresource Consulting Ltd.
“HP and Lenovo have released products priced similarly to the MacBook Air, gaining share, and in order to remain competitive in that price point, we think a form-factor change is necessary,” Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research, said. “It should help them rebound some of their Mac sales as things have been getting a bit long on the tooth in terms of their Mac line as they’ve clearly been very focused on the iPhone and services businesses.”
Quanta Computer and Hon Hai Precision Industry make the current generation of MacBooks and will make the new generation as well, the people familiar with Apple’s plans said. Apple accounts for about one third of Quanta’s revenue, according to analysts.
Apple is also planning the first upgrade to the Mac mini in about four years. It’s a Mac desktop that doesn’t include a screen, keyboard, or mouse in the box and costs $500. The computer has been favored because of its lower price, and it’s popular with app developers, those running home media centers, and server farm managers. For this year’s model, Apple is focusing primarily on these pro users, and new storage and processor options are likely to make it more expensive than previous versions, the people said.
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