Is the 17-inch MacBook Pro headed for extinction?

17-inch systems may very well be a throwback from a by-gone era.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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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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