Nov 10, 2020
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Apple introduced three new Macintosh computers at a splashy virtual event Tuesday that are powered by what it said was its "most powerful chip" ever. Instead of Intel chips, which have powered Apple computers since 2005, Apple has turned to a new chip produced in-house, which the company calls "Apple Silicon."
"This is a huge day for the Mac," said Apple CEO Tim Cook, touting computers he said would be "dramatically faster" with "extraordinary battery life."
Specifically, Apple introduced a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini, available for preorder now and in stores next week. Prices start at $999, $1,299 and $699 respectively.
Apple's new Macs
Apple has named its new chip the M1, and in its presentation, pulled out the usual assortment of sales tools, enticing viewers with tales of speed, of apps opening instantly, photos and videos taking less time to process and games that will just be spiffier to play.
Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, says the M1 chip is "based" on the A14 chip Apple uses to power new iPhones and iPads, "with these processors expected to be optimized for the unique heavy-duty power characteristics of the company's laptops." He says it will take roughly two years to see them embedded across the entire Mac product line.
The MacBook Air, Apple's entry-level laptop, is also its best-seller. Apple says the new chip will enable a "fanless" design which could result in a quieter computer. The new MacBook Pro features "studio-quality" microphones and improved video performance, which Apple said will enable clearer video meetings.
The biggest upgrade should be seen on the Mac mini, which hasn't been updated since 2018. The Mini has historically been the least powerful of Mac computers, which is designed to be connected to computer monitors.
Apple promises three times faster performance with a six times increase in graphics performance and it has two editions, one for $699 with 256 GB of storage, or $899 with 512 GB.
Apple looks to bring the M1 chip to the rest of the Mac line, with Cook calling the process a "transition."
Despite offering computers with traditionally higher prices than rivals, Apple has found itself on a roll during COVID-19 times, recently announcing a record quarter with higher sales for the iPad and Mac computers.
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In the earnings announcement, Apple said it sold more Macs than ever before in the July/August/September quarter, a beneficiary of the work and learning from home shift fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Apple said it sold $9 billion worth of Macs, up from $6.9 billion in the year-ago quarter.
The sales for the iPad also jumped, with revenues of $6.8 billion versus $4.6 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Still, Apple computers have just about a 10% market share compared to 90% to Windows-based PCs, and analyst Patrick Moorhead of the Moor Insights & Strategy firm says that's a strange position for a company that is so huge in phones and tablets. "Given these challenges, the company has decided that the best strategy to help fix this issue is to make the Mac more like the iPhone and iPad by leveraging its mobile silicon into a computer platform and even allowing the Mac to run iOS apps."
Apple's latest operating system update, called Big Sur, will be released Thursday. And two more new iPhones, the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max, are set for Friday.
While the starting prices sound enticing for the new computers, consumers could end up spending a small fortune if they sign on for all the available storage, graphics and memory.
The $999 MacBook Air jumps to $1,999, the 13-inch MacBook Pro goes from $1,299 to $2,299. , while the 16-inch version of the Pro gets from $2,799 to $6,699. There are two editions of the Mac Mini. The $699 edition (with 256 GB of storage) and the $899 edition (with 512 GB of storage) both jump to $1,699.