Apple May Drop 17-Inch MacBook Pro Model

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Apple may be preparing to drop the largest and most expensive model from its MacBook Pro range, due to slow sales

The 17-inch MacBook Pro, the largest (and most expensive) member of the MacBook Pro family, which starts at $2,499 (£1,550) and can run up to $4,100 for a top-of-the-line model with a 512GB solid-state drive, may be headed for extinction due to lacklustre sales.

That’s the word from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who predicted in a research note obtained by Apple blog MacRumors that “Apple is likely to stop making the 17-inch MacBook Pro this year due to falling shipments, in order to maintain a lean product line strategy”.

Mac sales boost

Kuo made some other predictions about the company, saying he thinks Apple’s Mac business in the second quarter of 2012 would be boosted by several factors.

“Three of which are: (1) ‘Mountain Lion,’ which integrates iOS features with Mac OS, Apple TV’s interaction function, will be launched in June; (2) upgrading to Ivy Bridge [processors]; and (3) back-to-school demand,” the note said. “We forecast Apple will sell 5.32 [million] units of the Mac series (up 28.5 percent [quarter-over-quarter] and 35 percent [year-over-year) in 2Q12, making it the main growth driver.”

The firm also predicted Apple would roll out a completely new MacBook model early in the third quarter, boasting strong performance and easy “carryability” by combining the advantages of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Based on KGI analysis, Apple sold roughly 3.1 million notebooks in the first quarter of 2012, led by the 13-inch MacBook Pro (an estimated 1.5 million units), with the 17-inch version trailing far behind, with only an estimated 50,000 units sold.

“It would be the model that makes sense to axe. With the move to Ultrabooks, and Apple’s push with the MacBook Air, there just isn’t the interest in the 17 inch that we see with the 15 inch or the 13 inch, which is of course also the cheapest model,” says Michael Oh, president of Apple reseller and care specialist TechSuperpowers.

Fewer advantages

Oh says it’s the model his company sells the least of, and in the past couple of months, he says he can probably count the number they’ve sold on one hand. “It used to be that the 17 inch had vastly superior battery life and memory space, but nowadays, a lot of those advantages have gone away,” he says. “In terms of what most people buy, you can get the most you need in a 15 inch. A lot of those upper limits people used to run into just don’t exist anymore.”

Earlier in the month, technology blog Planet Insane referenced a report from the Economic Daily News of China that said Apple was preparing to completely refresh the notebook line in June, with Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The report quoted unnamed sources in the industry supply chain.

The latest rumours can be added to the recent pile of reports coming out of the Apple rumour mill, including the possibility of an “iPad Mini” which would compete with Google Android tablets and boast a smaller screen size, and reports that the latest version of the company’s iPhone would be constructed from liquid metal components.

In a report last week, Reuters quoted Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs as saying the company was having trouble meeting demand for its smartphone chips due to manufacturing constraints, which analysts suggest could push back to October the release date of the next iPhone, which is expected to use the company’s MDM9615 LTE chipset.

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