MacBooks Still Clicking in a Post-PC World
Apple's latest MacBook Pro refresh was a meat-and-potatoes upgrade: faster processors, better graphics, more storage, no fancy stuff. The new computers are born in a time Apple itself calls the "post-PC" era -- a time when the main machine people live on could more often be a tablet, not a notebook. How long will it be before the iPad and its ilk cannibalize personal computers?
Juicy details from the newly released Steve Jobs biography, including a quote from the late Apple cofounder suggesting he'd found a way to break into the TV market, fueled the never-sputtering rumor machine this week.
Talk of Apple's jump into television manufacturing seemed to overshadow the updates Apple made to its MacBook Pro line. Price points remain the same on the 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch laptops, but they will run on faster Intel processors. Storage space on the 13-inch model was upped to 500 GB for the lowest-priced model. All will run on Apple's latest OS, OS X Lion.
A Case of Cannibalization?
The updates come as questions are raised about whether the tablet market is cannibalizing the PC market. Personal computer and laptop sales have been down in general -- though not with Apple -- leaving some to ponder whether the traditional personal computer is getting phased out by the increasingly popular tablet.
Though the iPad is the far-and-away leader in tablet sales, it's one of many consumer options that are finding their niches within a crowded space.
"It's an iPad market rather than a tablet market. At the moment and moving forward into the next couple years, it's not so much cannibalizing but more a finer segmentation of the market," Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner told MacNewsWorld.
Personal computing devices such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets provide plenty of options for a mass market consumers looking to use their gadgets for simple functions like checking e-mail, playing games and scanning the news. For professionals and technophiles, though, the market still exists for a more complex machine. As tablets become more well-rounded, though, manufacturers will perhaps add better word-processing functions or other features appealing to professionals.
"In the next three to five years, as you start to see more of a tablet market as opposed to an iPad market, as well as tablets becoming more powerful, that will be all the computer that a good number of people need. In terms of physical size as well as performance, and usage and affordability, tablets have a great opportunity, and as that market unfolds, we'll see a greater segmentation as opposed to everyone just trying to compete with Apple," said Nguyen.
That kind of market has to see a lot of growth before it's a cannibal, however, and Apple will continue to make steady improvements to its personal computer line.
Will Apple TV Ever Be a TV?
One market Apple can't claim to be a leader in is television. Despite being the constant subject of speculation and talk about what it will eventually grow up to be, Apple TV has never quite made a real splash in the market. At the center of new rumors this week was a statement from Steve Jobs' to his authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson, that Jobs had "cracked the code" of breaking into the TV market.
"It's not to say Apple isn't working on TV, but it's hard to see a way into the market that would fit Apple's style. They would have to either disrupt an ad revenue stream or disrupt a paid TV subscription stream, and I don't see a way they could do that," Paul Sweeting, digital media analyst with GigaOM Pro and principal at Concurrent Media Strategies, told MacNewsWorld.
Unlike some of the other gadget and entertainment spheres into which Apple worked its way, the TV industry isn't necessarily looking for a savior -- or a competitor.
"The TV business isn't particularly broken. Unlike the music business, which was already highly disrupted by Napster and other things, and was really floundering and looking for something, Apple came along and sort of scooped it up. With the phone business, they were able to develop an ongoing relationship with users, which wireless providers hadn't been able to do. But I don't see what the weak point is that they attack on the TV side," said Sweeting.
If the company did attack, in order to compete, Apple would have to receive rights to content.
"Both the cable providers and the networks at this point benefit tremendously from the lack of an a la carte option. If Apple is going to do something, Apple or anyone else, they're going to have to break up the bundle, and it's hard to see where they can get in there to do that," said Sweeting.