What's Cooking?

by Oliver Breidenbach

I am getting a little jittery here. I've just checked the Apple PR archives and it's true: The last significant Mac news dates August 7th, 2006 when Apple announced Leopard and the MacPros. (The Apple TV is not Mac news, it's iTunes news.)

That's 7 months!

Since then: iPod, iPhone, iTunes. Ah, and, before we forget, iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro each got a slight update.

The MacBook Pro shipped over a year ago in February 2006. The MacBook has been introduced in May 2006, 10 months ago. Each received a small revision, swapping out a pin compatible processor, hardly a major engineering feat. Certainly not worth a special event to introduce.

So where are the great new Mac products Steve keeps talking about?

It's been almost a decade since Apple introduced a new Mac product category with the iBook. Remember the 4 Squares? iMac, iBook, PowerMac, PowerBook. That was circa 1998 and to this day, Apple has kept more or less inside these 4 squares with Mac products. (There was the Cube, the eMac - both discontinued - and there is the Mac mini - which hasn't been updated in more than a year and, although cheap, is not very good value for the money if compared to the low end iMac - as notable exceptions.) This has helped Apple to focus and it was good for business, but it leaves out a lot of customer segments. When Apple switched to Intel, it paved the way to target these but has so far chosen not to.

The reason why I bring this up now is that I just discovered that the Intel GMA graphics system in my cute black MacBook can't handle some of our upcoming products, so I will have to get a better machine for demoing to customers. I do have some ADC hardware assets left over and they expire in April. My only choice now is a MacBook Pro, but I don't like the idea of carrying around a larger and heavier laptop than my MacBook.

So, for the first time in many years, Apple doesn't seem to have a product for me. I would love to try the ModBook but it is based on a MacBook with the insufficient graphics.

So, what's cooking?

Will we forever have to make do with two laptops and two and a half desktops? Will I have to byte the bullet and buy a MacBook Pro? Or will the infamous Great New Mac products make a surprise appearance some day after all?


2007-03-12 09:53:52
I find myself asking the same questions. I'm need a new laptop and the Macbook was my first choice for size and cost, but the graphics are not acceptable for me. We saw nothing for new machines at MacWorld where we usually get our new product fix. Perhaps, if Apple wants to be a consumer electronics company and not a computer company, it should reconsider allowing others to make hardware to run OS X. As their computer hardware becomes a backseat passenger to consumer electronics, the revenue generated by it will be significantly less and licensing may become viable.

Of course, they could have some killer machines right around the corner but with the short cycle of computer products, new machines every 8-12 months is not unreasonable. Come on Apple! I have my money saved up and want to buy your stuff!

2007-03-12 10:02:41
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You know, those GMA graphics aren't all that bad. Intel has just announced a new revision too that will have vertex shaders, so I'd expect to see that in the Macbooks and Mini soon.

I am also in a position where Apple don't have a suitable machine for me - I've outgrown my (heavily home modified) Mac Mini, but a Mac Pro is complete overkill (and expensive!), and I don't want or need another monitor, so that iMac is no good. What I need is a desktop-class motherboard and CPU - not something that's a laptop in a desktop case as with the iMac or Mini - has a couple of removable drive bays and optical drive, more than the 2 or 3 Gb RAM limit on the Minis and iMac, a decent graphics card and a PCI slot or two.

That's almost exactly 1/2 of a Mac Pro ;)

If Apple sold something like that, for about the same as a mid-range iMac, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.


2007-03-12 11:11:05
Totally agree. I'm ready to replace my 2004 1.5Gz Powerbook, but have come to love the feel, size and durability of my wife's new Macbook--yet the graphics thing is a problem, and I am no way buying now because I know they've GOT to be coming out with something new. For the first time I've decided that the pro version is not worth the price difference, but the Macbook doesn't quite have it. I've seen some rumors of a 15" Macbook--now that would be cool with some more graphics horsepower and I would jump on it. THEN, I am ready to do a Mac Mini media center (again because my wife's Macbook does it pretty darn well), but I'd like to see a Mini upgrade as well before I purchase.

And I totally agree with the concerns over the emphasis on the consumer products. That's cool, and I am glad it's brought Apple great success because I don't live in constant fear that my Macs are going away, but let's not lose sight of our roots Steve. I don't think the iPhone is going to replace my Powerbook, so you better get to work. (Please?)

2007-03-12 11:32:14
THANK GOD someone else is feeling this way. Lately I've been becoming an RSS fiend because I keep thinking O.k. - now THIS is the update I've been waiting for.... no - wait - THIS one is it, crap. Come on Steve - throw us a bone, announce an upcoming announcement or something!
2007-03-12 13:36:37
How quickly we forget. I recall (with deep contempt) the Apple of mid- to late-90's. A plethora of products lines and invisible distinctions within those product lines. Customer confusion, bland products and terrible sales. If creating niche products to satisfy the edges of your customer bell curve requires a return to that time, I say "No thanks". Let those with esoteric needs go over to the Windows side if they don't want to make the (tiny) sacrifice of purchasing a slightly larger laptop.

Apple is focused, successful and relevant. Let's not try to drag it out of its comfort zone just to satisfy whime. I say this as an Apple stockholder.

Jesse Barnum
2007-03-12 15:54:59
The XServe is a new product category.
Aaron Tait
2007-03-12 17:46:37
I was just wondering if there was a specific framework you were using that required something better than a GMA 950? To my knowledge, Core Image/Video/Animation should work fine with the 950. Well, as long as you aren't doing really crazy stuff. I am in the market for a new MacBook and I want to start adopting these features into my app, but I don't want to jump the gun and buy something that will prohibit my software development. Any thoughts?
Oliver Breidenbach
2007-03-13 00:51:55
Well, as long as you aren't doing really crazy stuff.

If you use Quartz Composer, things are getting crazy fast... ;-)

Oliver Breidenbach
2007-03-13 01:10:36
The XServe is a new product category.

Oh, yes, I forgot. See, I always loose those in my jeans pocket (the small one you never knew what it was for) and they are so hard to find because they make almost no noise at all. The only trouble is the keyboard and mouse that I never know where to stow... ;-)

2007-03-16 09:40:02
Expect a new MacBook around May/June, with:

- new Direct X 10 compatible Intel GMA graphics chip
- speedier front-side bus
- Intel 'Robson' (now called 'Memory Boost') flash memory enhancements to suppliment hard drive .. for speedy booting & loading of regularly accessed code (& longer battery life)
- OS X 10.5 Leopard

All part of Intel's upcoming 'Santa Rosa' mobile platform ..

Perhaps slightly more long term, but within the year all Macbooks will have LED backlit screens too.


Oliver Breidenbach
2007-03-16 10:21:21
Good guess. Although I am not sure how the Mac user would benefit from Direct X10 compatible graphics... Reading tea leaves has become less challenging now that the Intel roadmap can be applied to Macs as well. At least we know what is theoretically possible. But the big question remains to what extend will Apple follow up with products?
2007-03-16 13:01:18
If Parallels or VMWare capitalise on hardware 3D acceleration, a Direct X 10 chip might come in useful.. In any case, it should answer your graphics problems for a little while, & save you jumping to the larger MacBook Pro .. (unless you fancy the 12" flash based 'Thin')


Alex T
2007-03-19 16:11:24
I can agree. There is a glaring hole in Apple's product offerings right now.

I would like to get a laptop that I can develop, game lightly on and overall do a little bit of everything on. The current macbooks are too underpowered, and the macbook pros are just far too expensive for what little more they offer.

A new macbook with a slightly bigger screen, slightly better video capabilities and a good price would likely take over the laptop market. Especially if paired with a new OS release, I can't see why Apple hasn't done this already?