Why Apple dumped the 17-inch MacBook Pro

Why Apple dumped the 17-inch MacBook Pro

Summary: While sales played a part in Apple's decision to drop the larger of the MacBook Pro systems, it wasn't the only reason for their demise.

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TOPICS: Apple
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Question in today's mailbox:

Why did Apple dump the 17-inch MacBook Pro? I've owned several over the years and I'm upset that I'm going to have to switch to a 15-inch when I buy the next one.

Although Apple made no official announcement during the WWDC keynote yesterday, the absence of the 17-inch MacBook Pro from the online store can be taken as proof positive that the notebook has been dumped from the lineup. So, it's certainly gone, but why?

Rumors that Apple was going to dump the 17-inch MacBook Pro go as far back as April when Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with KGI Securities, predicted that Apple was "likely to stop making" the large notebook because of weak sales. Weak sales would be a good reason for a company like Apple to ditch a product, especially given how rapidly the company turns over its inventory every five days or so. Apple doesn't want products laying around in stores gathering dust. It wants them to roll up in delivery trucks today, and be carried out by happy customers tomorrow.

However, one thing that blows a hole in this weak sales theory is Apple's continued commitment to the Mac Pro. While we're not offered any figures by Apple, I'm certain that the company sold more 17-inch MacBook Pros over the last year than it has Mac Pro systems. I certainly come across more 17-inch MacBook Pro systems than I do Mac Pros. While I'm sure that while sales played a part in Apple's decision to drop the larger of the MacBook Pro systems, I'm also certain that it wasn't the only reason for their demise.

So what other reason might Apple have had to dump the 17-inch MacBook Pro? To answer this, I think we need to look at the screen.

Yesterday Apple revamped the MacBook Pro lineup and moved them over to having high-resolution 'retina' display screens. The 15.4-inch display on the MacBook Pro has a 2880-by-1800 resolution and packs over 5 million pixels into the panel. That's not only an amazingly large high pixel density, it's also a very large panel to have that sort of pixel density.

Back in May, Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch, believed that Apple was in a position to source high pixel density 13.3-inch and 15.4-inch LCD panels from suppliers such as Sharp, LG Display, and Samsung. What wasn't mentioned was 17-inch panels, and the likely reason for this is that panel makers have not yet perfected a technique for making these panels at the appropriate cost and yield for Apple to be able to continue to offer a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

When LCD panel makers get better at making 'retina' display screen, and 17-inch panels start rolling off the production lines at the right price point, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Apple starts to offer 'retina' display enabled 17-inch MacBook Pro systems once again.

Especially if the demand is there.

Image source: Apple (1, 2).

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Topic: Apple

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53 comments
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  • I think you are right. Technology hasn't quite caught up yet.

    And probably not only the panels but the GPU chipset requirements as well. It is one thing to put a 1GB GPU with massive cooling into a desktop, another thing altogether to fit into a tight-packed laptop.
    terry flores
    • Dropped

      This device was dropped because it was over priced and under powered... In turn meant sluggish sales..
      On-the-edge
      • Back it up

        Show us some proof you are more than just a troll.
        non-biased
    • Nope

      It has nothing to do with the technology. It's no harder for them to make a 17 than a 15. GPUs today can more than handle a retina resolution. They are way overpowered for everything except games or 3D work, and even then, they do very well.

      As for the trolling about the 17 being under powered, my 17 from 2011 is faster than most desktop replacement laptops today. So... yea, troll on.
      Leif Ashley
  • Ah yes, the sign of a true Apple fanboi

    [i]Im upset that Im going to have to switch to a 15-inch when I buy the next one.[/i]

    Very very telling statement.
    [i]When the company I worship stops making the products that meet my requirements, I will simply change my requirements.[/i]

    That is so descriptive of so many Apple talkbackers on ZDNet.

    PS This is a [b]huge[/b] indicator of why no company should ever standardize on OS X. OS X is the only mainstream OS where the manufacturer artificially locks you in to their hardware. If a company running Windows or Linux on Dell wants a 17" laptop and Dell stops making 17" laptops, they can simply switch to ASUS or Toshiba or any of the other laptop makers. A company running OS X that wants to buy new 17" laptops can't without going through an expensive switch of OS. That is a [b]major[/b] hidden cost of doing business with Apple.
    toddbottom3
    • I was about to make the same observation.

      Same thing with the Mac Pro. In another Apple forum people are very upset with the changes to the Mac Pro. But instead of switching to Windows they've stated they'll build a hackintosh.
      ye
      • Cost and Software investments

        It is likely a massive bill to switch for instance an Adobe suite over from Mac to Windows. And if Apple updates the Mac Pro to something they like, then they are truly FUBAR'd. Building a Hackintosh means you can always buy on the next upgrade cycle.
        CanadianTrooper
      • hackintoshs are highly illegal

        You are in absolute and total violation of Apple's license terms if you use OS X on anything other than an Apple manufactured machine. While that might be okay for trolls living in their parents' basement, no company in their right mind would ever ever ever run a hackintosh solution. Apple is extremely litigious and would instantly sue any profitable company for all they are worth which would then bankrupt them. They would also seek to have the owners thrown in jail.
        toddbottom3
        • BYOH

          Couldn't a "bring your own hardware" clause exonerate the employer? I dont know.
          Pedro Dinero
      • I believe Adobe has a cross license

        @CanadianTrooper:

        Allowing you to use their products on either platform.
        ye
      • Yes, they are.

        @toddbottom3:

        Which just goes to show how irrational these people are. They'd rather break the law than switch. The whole idea of the Macintosh was "It just works because it's designed to work together". Yet here you have a group of people willing to use bailing wire and duct tape instead of switching.
        ye
      • What does that tell you?

        That they would rather go to the trouble of building a hackintosh than switch to Windows.
        non-biased
    • Good point but...

      Some people are emotionally and work oriented to a particular machine/software combination. I have a friend that will be cursing Apple if they do drop it. He's been using the 17" since they started making them.

      And the same can happen when upgrading/switching Windows computers and finding out for instance that Dell provides the "European Keyboard" in Canada. The keyboard is different enough to force people to buy they own.
      CanadianTrooper
    • speaking of fanbois....

      NZ, you have been on here for a good decade doing everything in your power to try and and convince people to hate Apple like you do. That is pretty telling in itself. You're on here everyday slamming Apple for every slight, real or imagined.

      Whats worse than being a fanboy of a product you love? Being an anti-fanboy for something you hate. Face it NZ, your entire life is defined by your hatred of Apple. Congratulations.
      Tigertank
      • Has he-she put a dent into Apple sales?

        NOT
        CaviarBlack
      • Couldn't agree more

        What fanboys and haters just don't seem to comprehend is that one is no better than the other, just the flip side of the same coin.

        I have noticed though, NZ must be slipping. He/she/it used to frequently be the first to post in any thread regarding Apple. Maybe he/she/it has started coming up out of Grandma's basement from time to time now.
        non-biased
        • Reminds (I AM going somewhere with that story, honest.)

          When we were quite young and would do or say something our father didn't like he'd ask us, "How old are you?" and then devil us by answering his own question, but with a number less. And we'd bite every time. "I am not 6, I'm 7!"

          So now whenever I see someone throw out "fanboy", I hear my dad's voice, asking them, "how old are you?". And now they even use misspellings, purposely. ("boi") So now I have to wonder if they aren't also carrying a bag with a little dog in it - more cuteness.

          If you ignore them, completely, they invariably get frustrated, rant a little bit and then go away.

          -- Windows & Linux User/Programmer
          ChasmoeBrown
    • I own 4 windows pcs to my one Macbook Pro

      and to be quite honest my "Pro" only being 13", I will not miss the 17" (my sympathies go out to those who will). I believe users of both Apple and Windows are in for a sore transitional period. Apple has made some poor choices eliminating internal optical drives and added painful (and expensive) dongles for the luxury of external peripherals (wasn't the Air enough?) and Windows has forced users to accept a new graphical desktop which may scare even many hard-core "PC" advocates. I certainly will not be installing 8 anytime soon. This may just be the year the alternative operating system has an increase in user base.
      partman1969@...
      • I own 4 Macs (and one MacBook Pro) to my one PC...

        ...and to be quite honest, I appreciate your sympathy on the demise of the 17" MBPro, which happens to be the one I own. I've been a user of PCs since 1985, and a Mac user since 1986. I happen to prefer the Mac for most purposes, but everyone's entitled to their preferences. I'm certainly not a PC/Windows hater.

        I think your observation is spot-on. There is so much flux in both worlds -- Windows and Mac -- that I suspect many users are likely to question loyalties that previously were quite comfortable, but are becoming increasingly disrupted. It's certainly true of me. I'm a pro user who rejoiced when Apple released the 17" MacBook Pro with Core Duo CPU. It's the only machine I own on which I can run everything from Tiger (10.4) to Snow Leopard (10.6).

        Last month marked the start of its 7th year of trouble-free ownership. (OK...I had to replace the battery last year...but nearly 6 years on a battery is great service!) It's still a workhorse -- vastly superior to anything that preceded it, but alas, it's getting long in the tooth -- forced into obsolescence by Apple's requirement for a Core 2 Duo CPU for Lion (10.7) and above. I still have plenty of use for it, but it has been increasingly obvious that I'll be forced to upgrade sooner or later just to maintain software support. So, I figured later this year or early next year, I'm in for a new 17" MBPro.

        And now...aaaccckkk!!! They've killed the 17" form factor! Aaarrrggghhh!!! I find it difficult to believe that the suit-dweeb who made [i]that[/i] decision used a 17" MBPro on a daily basis. He'd know that once you're used to that much screen real estate you can never go back. Retina display be damned...resolution doesn't equate to workspace.

        I haven't decided what to do yet, but I know that downgrading to a 15" screen is not an option. On the other hand, switching all my pro apps to Windows equivalents isn't going to be fun...or inexpensive. The learning curves would hammer my productivity for a while. But the prospect of paying big bucks for a svelte fashion-statement MBPro with an undersized, oversexed display I don't need -- and with dysfunctionally impoverished connectivity and no optical drive into the bargain...well, I can't swallow that either.

        It won't be an easy decision, but right now, Apple seems to be driving me toward a 17 Windows laptop. Jerks.
        slingzenarrowzuvowtrayjissforchin
        • Buy refurbished

          It's cheaper, and still available, and you get the full warranty, and the externals is brand new, with mint internals. http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac/macbook_pro/17
          chic_tyler