18th July 2016

Tribute to a Classic

On the 24th April, 2006, Apple launched the 17” MacBook Pro. Firmly targeted at business and creative users, this Mac was a desktop replacer.

However, six years later, at WWDC 2012, Apple launched the MacBook Pro with Retina Display but scrapped the 17” version. Four years on, it still has a loyal fan base eager for it to reappear. Here, we take a nostalgic look back and discuss whether it will make a return.

When it was first launched, the 17” MacBook Pro included a 2.1GHz Intel Dual Core processor, up to 2GB RAM, an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 PCI Express 256MB graphics card, all in a 1 inch thick design. It also weighed in at 3kg.

So by today’s standards it might not exactly be powerful or as sleek as Apple once described, but it certainly had the specification and real estate to allow heavy users to do their work on a laptop rather than on a desktop.

So why was the 17” MacBook Pro scrapped? At the time analysts cited the weak sales as the main driver for this decision. I don’t think anybody would argue that the 17” was a big seller for Apple but if sales was the major driver then why did Apple continue to develop and launch a new
Mac Pro in 2013? You could barely argue that the Mac Pro was a huge seller for Apple too.

So were there any other reasons behind Apple scrapping the 17” model? Well, at the time, Apple were able to source the high density pixel displays for the Retina Screen from the likes of LG, Samsung and Sharp. But back in 2012 they weren’t able to produce them, or at least cheaply enough, to make a 17” MacBook Pro commercially viable.

It is also worthwhile considering fashion. Take a look at mobile phones. Prior to 2013, the market was characterised by screen sizes less than 4”. Now however, anything below 4” has practically disappeared. The point is, back in 2012 we were still looking at making things smaller and lighter. Now, whilst that trend is still very much alive (just take the MacBook as an example) we are also demanding larger tech items. iPhones are bigger as are iPads! Real estate matters.

The 17” MacBook Pro customer is a loyal customer. There are Facebook pages requesting the return of the model; forums filled with posts of people declaring that they are still running a 2011 spec machine, praying that they will run forever.

So could we see the return of the 17” MacBook Pro? In 2016, it would be possible to argue that with a 21.5” and 27” Retina Display available on an iMac, the technology and economies of scale probably exist to produce a 17” screen. On top of that, the latest production techniques and specifications would mean that a 17” model could be thinner and lighter than its predecessor.

Fashionable demand for larger screen sizes may also help its cause and nobody can dispute the passion or enthusiasm of its supporters. So, I guess the real question is – are there enough of them?