Has Apple Lost Interest in the Mac?

It’s been a long time since Apple upgraded many of their Macs. MacRumors’ Mac Buyer’s Guide lays out the numbers. The last update for the following Macs was:

  • MacBook: 145 days ago; relatively recently.
  • iMac: 335 days ago; nearly a year, but still in line with previous upgrades. Timespans between upgrades have ranged from 147 days to 577 days.
  • Retina MacBook Pro: 481 days ago. The MacBook Pro used to be updated, on average, every 8-9 months.
  • MacBook Air: 552 days. These, too, used to be upgraded roughly every year.
  • Mac mini: 696 days. Upgrades to the Mac mini have ranged from 231 to 723 days. The last update was in October 2014, and before that, October 2012.
  • Mac Pro: This top-of-the-line Mac was last upgraded a laughable 997 days ago. Prior to that, upgrades came every year and a half or so, at least since 2009.
  • Non-retina MacBook Pro: 1,552 days. It’s clear that this model won’t be upgraded, but Apple is holding onto it as a low-priced model for education.

So the MacBook and the iMac were upgraded most recently. With the iMac’s last upgrade a year ago, it’s possible that we’ll see something soon, in time for the Christmas season. Or will we? I have a 2014 27″ 5K iMac. I used to renew my hardware every 18-24 months so I could have the newest features, and because it did make a difference in terms of speed and other hardware elements. I can’t imagine needing to upgrade my current iMac, and I can’t imagine what Apple could add to this computer to make it tempting, even for me, a tech journalist who tends to like to have the newest features in my computers. Once they added the retina display, they provided everything that I needed in my work. I owned a Mac Pro, but in the absence of a retina display, ditched it to buy the 5K iMac. I should note that the Mac Pro was the most difficult Mac to sell; if I hadn’t gotten a discount on the computer, thanks to a friend in an Apple Store, I would have lost a lot of money.

I also have a 12″ MacBook, purchased just over a year ago. It’s a very good computer, but the USB-C port makes it annoying. I have several dongles that I need to use a USB peripheral, as well as to charge it while using a USB peripheral. Since Apple isn’t committed to using USB-C on its other Macs, it’s simply a headache to have to deal with all these extra wires.

And I have a Mac mini, from 2011, that I use as a server. I would like to buy a new Mac mini, especially one with USB3, but I’ve been hesitating since it’s been so long since the last upgrade. I know that they’ll release a new model a month after I buy one, so I keep putting it off. Interestingly, my Mac mini is nearly as fast as the fastest current model. When I bought it in late 2011, I maxed it out, with a 2.7 GHz core i7 processor (the current fastest option is a 3 GHz core i7), a 256 GB SSD, and a 750 GB internal hard drive. I added aftermarket RAM for a total of 16 GB, and, now that RAM is no longer user-accessible, that’s the most you can put in the Mac mini.

So my two-year old iMac is more than sufficient for what I do. My year-old MacBook is okay, but I would prefer a MacBook Air with a retina display, and standard USB ports. And the Mac mini, at five years old, is good enough.

I’m not the target audience for new Macs. That demographic has changed a lot, as families now use iPads and iPhones, instead of iMacs and laptops. The Mac mini has always been a niche computer, though one with a strong following among people wanting a simple home server or a device to serve media.

In a way, it’s not surprising that Apple hasn’t updated Macs for a while. I don’t think the company has lost interest in the Mac, but they’ve simply made it less of a priority, as its sales recoil. In Q2 2016, Mac sales dropped 12%, and in Q3 of this year, they dropped another 11%. (These figures are year over year.) Yet they’re still better than previous years; they only fell because of a bump in 2014, and a bigger bump in 2015.

Apple obviously needs to update Macs, and even if they’re not making a lot of money from them, I think they need to keep the product lines refreshed, if only for appearances. (And it’s not like they’re losing money on Macs anyway.) Soon, perhaps? When macOS Sierra is released on September 20? Or sometime in October, which is often when they introduce new Macs and iPads?