Apple's next generation of MacBook pro notebooks may receive an introduction in as soon as two weeks' time, Apple Insider is reporting, following tips from a number of unnamed sources. This March time frame would reportedly put Apple just a few weeks behind its planned schedule, according to the site, following delays caused by flaws found in Intel's new "Sandy Bridge" processors.
On Jan. 31, Intel officials announced that they were recalling their 6-Series chipset, known as "Cougar Point," though they had located the problem and were beginning to manufacture new chipsets with the repair in place. By Feb. 7, the chipmaker said it had resumed shipments of the chipsets to PC makers whose device configurations were not affected by the issue found on the 6-Series chipset. Among those systems makers was Apple, according to a Feb. 16 report from Taiwan-based DigiTimes.
"Apple is normally slower in upgrading its notebook products to the latest platform and is currently still using Calpella for most of its PC models; as a result, the company has completely avoided the impact," the site reported.
Apple Insider sources added that the move to the Sandy Bridge architecture wouldn't be the only major highlight of the new lineup. Apple's latest line of MacBook Air notebooks, introduced in October 2010, took design cues from the iPhone and iPad-which had been influenced by Mac designs, bringing Apple's design cues full circle-and so feature instant-on capabilities and SSD (solid-state disk) drives instead of hard drives, and keep things light by doing without optical drives. Such features, states the report, are expected to "become more prevalent in many of the models planned for future design cycles over the next 12 to 18 months."
According to a third Apple Insider source, Apple is currently selling MacBook Air notebooks in volumes that are nearly half that of the less expensive MacBook Pro. Suggesting that the success of the MacBook Air will similarly be enjoyed by the newest MacBook Pros, DigiTimes adds in its report, "Sources from Apple's upstream supply chain also noted that Apple's shipments in January reached the company's expectations and Apple is reportedly even planning to increase its orders for the first quarter."
Research firm IDC reported that Apple shipped approximately 2.9 million notebooks during the fourth quarter of 2010. Benefitting from holiday sales, Apple saw its highest-ever earnings and revenue ($26.74 billion) during the quarter, as well as record sales of Macs, iPhones and iPads, the company reported during a Jan. 18 earnings call. For the second fiscal quarter of 2011, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said he expected revenue to dip to $22 billion.
Apple last updated its MacBook Pro line in April 2010, outfitting it with Intel Core i7 and Core i5 processors, next-generation Nvidia graphics and batteries able to hold 8 to 9 hours of life per charge. Available in 13- 15- and 17-inch designs, Apple said that the latter two were now a full 50 percent faster than their predecessors.
The DigiTimes report added that Apple could afford to be slow about upgrading its notebooks, given their high average selling prices. For competitors also slowed by the Intel issues, however, the same isn't true.
"For Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Dell, which heavily depend on their economic scale," reported DigiTimes, "the new platform will help raise their ASPs, and therefore, these makers will try to launch notebooks with new platforms as early as possible."