Is the 17-inch MacBook Pro headed for extinction?

Is the 17-inch MacBook Pro headed for extinction?

Summary: 17-inch systems may very well be a throwback from a by-gone era.

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The 17-inch MacBook Pro is Apple's most expensive portable system, ranging in price from $2,499 to an eye-watering $4,100 when fully-loaded with a 2.5GHz Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB solid state drive. But there are suggestions that Apple is preparing to dump this model with the 2012 refresh of the MacBook Pro because of weak demand for the system.

See alsoMacBook Pro 2012 could feature Liquidmetal technology

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo sent out a research note to clients this week with the prediction 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."

But how does Kuo know how many 17-inch MacBook Pros Apple sells? After all, Apple doesn't break down sales into specific models. Well, Apple might not be talking numbers, but other resellers are, in this case Michael Oh, president of Apple reseller and care specialist TechSuperpowers.

"It would be the model that makes sense to ax. 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 Oh. "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. 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."

Could Apple dump the high-end MacBook Pro? It's possible, especially given how Apple hasn't refreshed the Mac Pro workstation since August 2010. The apparent abandonment of the Mac Pro is certainly a sign that Apple doesn't have a problem with letting the cobwebs gather on a product line. The Mac Pro line is now so long in the tooth in terms of hardware that I can't imagine that Apple sells many of these system -- in fact, anyone who is buying a Mac Pro for the price they are being offered at is throwing money away. It's easy to argue that it doesn't make sense for Apple to kill a content creation device like the Mac Pro -- or the 17-inch MacBook Pro, which is a favorite among those who work with and edit multimedia -- but it equally doesn't make sense for Apple to allow the Mac Pro to stagnate for as long as it has either. It's clear that Apple is concentrating on the products that bring in the dollars.

With Apple only selling 4 million Macs during the last quarter, I find it hard to believe that is selling that many systems priced at $2,400 or above, which includes both the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro line. That's a good reason to dump the models that aren't selling in order to simplify the product line.

Also, given that the 17-inch MacBook Pro hardware is almost identical to that of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, if Apple does dumps the 17-inch option all it's doing is reducing the screen options available rather than offering a less capable system.

In my experience, interest and demand in large form factor portable systems has waned as people desire portability over acres of screen real-estate. 17-inch systems may very well be a throwback from a by-gone era.

Image credit: Apple

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Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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40 comments
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  • Those who want a larger screen can get an iMac or an LCD Panel Monitor

    Believe it or not, there are lots of developers out there who use a 13" Mac with a large LCD Panel monitor - either from Apple or some other vendor.
    GoForTheBest
    • you have no idea what you are talking about

      your suggestion of hauling an iMac is ridiculous.
      Do it yourself if you like it.
      rueiowt86
    • On the road video creation

      is the target market for the 17". You can't lug around an external screen.
      Richard Flude
    • ...

      First the though of having to use a mac gives me dry heaves lol second a 13 inch laptop why would anyone do that. For me a 17 inch laptop is a must. i do have a 20 inch and some 15.6 laptops but that 17 inch size is perfect althought if your spending $2000 on any laptop your retardeded lol a grand on a new maxed i7 17incher is pushing it. never pay retail or apple costs.
      Fletchguy
  • An iMac defeats the protability factor.

    Have you ever tried to lug one of those beasts around? Even the smallest iMac weight 21 pounds, and you need a box to carry it in. the 27" unit is about 31 pounds, again not too portable. the 17" MacBook Pro does serve a purpose, and they're priced competitively with similarly configured hardware from other vendors.
    Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Makes me happy I didn't buy a 17" MBP

    I bought a 17" laptop from a competitor. Clearly Apple is not willing to stand behind its 17" laptops so why should I?

    Actually, that isn't even totally fair. Even had Apple not decided to abandon its 17" laptop consumers, I couldn't have purchased what I wanted from Apple since Apple's best specs weren't good enough for me.
    toddbottom3
    • Lest we forget...

      You've not forgotten this is just a rumour, and has no actual facts behind it. When predicting what Apple will or won't do these analysts' prognostications are no better than 'wild guesses'.

      Out of curiosity, which of the specifications were lacking?
      jeremychappell
      • I'll answer

        [i]AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memory[/i]

        Very weak.
        toddbottom3
      • For the price...

        Double the RAM, a mid range or high end graphic chip... That would be a good start.

        I love the 17" MacBook Pro, but my last upgrade went to a Sony laptop, faster processor, double the RAM, bigger hard drive, BD player, better graphics chip... For 60% less than the equivalent MBP 17".

        With the tools I use, the underlying operating system doesn't make any difference to the tools or costs, so I was lucky, I could chose based on price/specification, not on whether it could run a specific package that was only available on one or other platform.

        17" laptops / high resolution displays and powerful processors on a laptop have their place. They are overkill for a lot of people, who just surf and read e-mail on the move.

        For those that need a mobile sound or film studio or a complete development environment or graphic workhorse when on-site, there isn't much option. An Air with a 27" display at home/base office is pretty useless, when you need to do heavy-duty lifting at a customer site for a week or 2.
        wright_is
    • Any 17" laptop from any other vendors are horrible

      Those laptops are clunky, bigger and heavier, don't even come close to the MBP 17".
      You should have actually checked out the MBP 17" in a showroom instead.
      rueiowt86
    • Toddbottom

      Hay dude, no one really cares what you think. Your shtick has worn out its welcome.
      gribittmep
  • I use

    I use an 11.6" MacBook Air with Bluetooth Keyboard, 24" LED LCD and a Apple Trackpad. It works fine for me and I can haul it with me when I go some place.
    slickjim
    • And how...

      do you manage to lug the 24" LCD, keyboard and trackpad around with you?

      Having a big display and proper mouse and keyboard at base is all well and fine, if you only do heavy-lifting at home/base - although the Air is also not suited to heavy lifting tasks either, regardless of mobile screen resolution.
      wright_is
    • And that very long extention cord

      to power up the monitor. But here's a question - why buy a MBA, and a 24" monitor to lug around? Wouldn't it have been far easier to just buy a 17" MB?
      William Farrel
  • It would be a shame...

    I guess for people that only surf the web, facebook, watch movies, email, etc, a smaller laptop is fine.

    But for the few serious users, like myself, an IT professional who needs, at the same time, to do software development and compose well-elaborate documents, the 17" version is the greatest thing on earth.

    The 17" version price simply pays for itself, for someone who knows the value of the extra real estate on the screen and its great resolution.

    There wasn't a single laptop on the market that appealed to me as the 17" MacBook did.

    All Windows laptops simply suck: they are made for amateurs, as I said, who only watch movies and spend the day on facebook.

    Apple should keep the 17" model.

    For all other people who don't see the value, like the author of this column, sorry, but you are not a serious user.
    rueiowt86
    • Nah

      Lion's full screen mode solves that problem, it is awesome for multitasking and it makes the screen seem larger than it is.
      slickjim
      • Speak for yourself then...

        You keep your full screen on a 13" and I will keep mine on a 17" inch.
        Keep on spending the whole day wasting your time watching movies or doing just facebook, because that's all you must do...
        rueiowt86
    • Windows Laptops

      You mentioned that all Windows laptops suck. Have you seen the HP EliteBook 8760w? This is a workstation notebook that goes up to 32GB of RAM, includes 7200RPM hard drive and 3yr warranty with on site service (I still don't know why Apple keep a 5400RPM drive and 1YR of warranty standard for a +$2500 notebook). It goes up to a quad core 2.7GHz processor and for video it goes up to a Nvidia Quadro 5010M with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM. Plus have the option for a HP Dreamcolor screen. I'm not saying that the MBP 17" is a bad machine. It has nice specs, it's light and has good battery life for it's size. But spec wise, I don't think a Windows notebook as the HP Elitebook sucks, as you posted, don't you think?
      dvm
      • New Windows hardware

        I'm encouraged by the adoption of better quality components and build materials by companies like HP and Dell, but I am still wary of these big OEMs. They have a pretty bad history of churning out poorly designed models which suffer from issues like overheating, broken power jacks and crap hinges. It's nice that these OEMs are dealing with the issue, but what really concerns me is that their quality of customer service most likely hasn't improved significantly. These improvements are really just reactions to a shrinking market and increased competition from Apple.

        People often talk about Apple's massively engorged prices, and to an extent, I understand. But at the same time, I have to say that the quality of Macbooks has traditionally been so far above their similarly-spec'd competitors that the laptops simply lasted longer and continued to perform better. And for that, for many people, the extra cost was worth it. And I really don't blame them.

        I agree that things are getting better, but I'm still cautious.
        lapland_lapin
      • @lapland_lapin

        Companies like HP have always used quality components - in their serious kit. The problem is, that kit tends to be expensive and is ignored by much of the tech press, because cheap bendy plastic laptops sell in higher volumes.

        Just because the really cheap Windows kit is, well, cheap and naff doesn't mean all Windows kit is cheap and naff.
        wright_is