Since May, rumors have been swirling that Apple is working on a major overhaul of its MacBook Pro laptop product line, which hasn't received large-scale changes in about four years.
Those rumors, however, remain persistent and just received more potential verification after an unnamed source confirmed that Apple has been performing advanced testing with redesigned MacBook Pro machines "since earlier this year," according to an Aug. 10 report by Bloomberg.
"The updated notebooks will be thinner, include a touch-screen strip for function keys, and will be offered with more powerful and efficient graphics processors for expert users, such as video gamers," several sources said, according to the article. The machines are not, however, likely to be unveiled at Apple's scheduled Sept. 7 announcement event, where the latest iPhone 7 smartphones will be unveiled, the story continued.
Also expected in the next MacBook Pro machines are Touch ID fingerprint scanners, which are used in iPhones to increase security for users, the story reported. The anticipated touch-screen secondary organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, which would replace the standard function key row, has been rumored since May, according to an earlier eWEEK story.
The new touch-screen display strip would "simplify keyboard shortcuts traditionally used by experienced users" while also allowing the virtual keys to be used for different functions when they are being used with different applications, such as iTunes or word processing software, according to Bloomberg.
In addition, the latest rumors confirm earlier reports that the upcoming MacBook Pro machines "will be slightly thinner than the current models but are not tapered like the MacBook Air and latest 12-inch MacBook," the story reported. The machines also are expected to have smaller footprints than current models and shallower curves around the edges of the exterior cases.
Also rumored is a MacBook Pro version with an optional high-performance graphics chip from Advanced Micro Devices, the report continued, as well as USB-C ports and the possibility of gray, gold and silver colors to the new devices.
Apple executives hope that a major refresh of the MacBook Pro line can help the company boost its revenue and profits, which have taken hits in the last two consecutive quarters. In July, Apple announced that in the third-quarter its global iPhone sales were down 15 percent from 2015, taking down overall revenue and profits with them. The company reported $42.36 billion in revenue, down 15 percent from $49.6 billion a year earlier, and $7.8 billion in net income, a drop from $10.7 billion.
Apple's year-over-year declines in revenue and net income for two straight quarters contrast with the company's prior string of 13 years of quarterly revenue reports without a decline, dating back to 2003. That streak was brought to a halt when the company reported revenue of $50.6 billion in the second quarter ended in April, 13 percent lower than the $58 billion the company posted a year prior.
Hitting the company's revenue and net income hard in the third quarter were a 15 percent drop in global iPhone sales to 40.4 million units from 47.5 million a year earlier. In this interval, sales of iPads dropped 9 percent to 9.95 million from 10.9 million, while Mac sales fell by 11 percent to 4.3 million from 4.8 million one year ago.
Apple's third-quarter revenue from U.S. sales fell 11 percent to $18 billion from $20.2 billion one year ago, while its revenue in China dropped 33 percent to $8.8 billion from $13.2 billion in this interval.
In April, Apple did update its 12-inch MacBook with a round of improvements, including the latest Intel Core M processors, faster graphics performance and flash storage, and as much as an hour of longer battery life, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The latest MacBooks feature sixth-generation dual-core Intel Core M processors with up to 1.3GHz speeds and faster 1,866MHz memory, as well as new Intel HD Graphics 515 graphics processing units for faster graphics performance. In addition, the new MacBooks offer improved battery life for up to 10 hours of Web browsing and up to 11 hours of movie playback. In addition, all 13-inch MacBook Air computers now get 8GB of memory standard from Apple.
Also in April, Apple unveiled its smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet, which followed its 12.9-inch enterprise-aimed iPad Pro tablet that was launched in November 2015.
Apple's earlier 15-inch MacBook Pro, released in May 2015, received the company's Force Touch trackpad as well as faster flash storage, longer battery life and faster discrete graphics. Force Touch includes built-in force sensors and a Taptic Engine that delivers haptic feedback, allowing users to click anywhere on the pad for a uniform feel.