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Apple Could Deliver a September Surprise With New MBPs

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 16, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Apple's MacBook Pro laptop was upgraded with new Intel processors a little more than six months ago, but another refresh may be in the works that will bring revamped models to the shelves within the next two weeks.

Apple Could Deliver a September Surprise With New MBPs

The move is believed to be necessary to keep Apple's laptop up to date with Intel's latest Sandy Bridge quad-core processors.

Citing anonymous sources, AppleInsider reported Tuesday that the refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the laptop's performance. Other than that, no material changes over existing models will be ushered in with the update, according to the report.

The existing lineup of Intel processors in the MacBook Pro, which run at 2.0, 2.2 and 2.3 GHz, will be replaced with new Core i7 chips running at 2.4, 2.5 and 2.7 GHz, it stated.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment by MacNewsWorld on the rumored introduction.

Avoiding Consumer Regret

Hours after the AppleInsider report appeared, Decide.com -- a price-watching service that uses a number of data-mining and predictive technologies to make recommendations to consumers so they can make better purchasing decisions -- posted a "wait" warning for the MacBook Pro.

To arrive at a purchasing recommendation, Decide gathers news and rumors from thousands of sources across the Web and analyzes them with proprietary algorithms, explained the company's CEO Mike Fridgen.

"As those rumors for a particular product hit a critical mass, our editors will see that and change our recommendations from buys to waits," he told MacNewsWorld. "In the case of the MacBook Pro, we've just hit that point. It's gotten to a point where we believe now that a consumer would have regrets if they purchased a current version of the product."

Predictable Introductions

How much regret, however, may be debatable.

For most consumers, the difference between 2.2 and 2.4 GHz isn't going to be noticeable, asserted Carl Howe, research director for the Yankee Group in Boston. "It just makes people feel like they're not buying last year's technology," he told MacNewsWorld.

Although a jump from 2.0 to 2.4 gigahertz is significant, he conceded, "most people won't really pay very much attention to it."

"These machines are fast enough that most consumers don't tax them," he added.

Howe, who has studied Apple's introduction patterns over time, wouldn't be surprised if the company did a late-fall refresh of the line. "Apple introductions are remarkably predictable because of the sheer pacing of the market," he argued. "So, for instance, they very rarely do a Pro refresh in Q4 because they're refreshing all their consumer products just before Q4."

However, "Every now again they break the rule," he conceded, "and this sounds like it might be one of those. Although if they're going to break the rule, they usually do it as a minor update.

"Faster processor, yes," he added. "New case and design, no."

Blowout Holiday Numbers

The speed at which this latest refresh may be taking place could reflect Apple feeling market heat to push out new products faster. While six months between refreshes may seem fast in the Apple world, it isn't in the PC world, where the average refresh is three times a year, observed Stephen Baker, an analyst for the NPD Group.

"Apple hasn't had that fast a cadence, but clearly there's demand from the markeplace to turn over products faster than Apple has traditionally done," he told MacNewsWorld.

He contended that now is good time as any for a MacBook Pro refresh. "You're after back-to-school and you're ahead of the holiday season," he said.

In addition, because Apple had such outstanding fourth quarter sales last year, it will be difficult to surpass that performance this year, he continued. A refresh, even a small one, of a major product line may be just what it needs to keep pace with last year's numbers.

"They'd like to have some blowout holiday numbers this season, and upgrading and refreshing on the Mac, because it doesn't happen all that often, tends to be a great driver of volume for them," he said.

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