updated 01:05 am EDT, Thu July 25, 2013
Dubious claim would be higher than all Mac sales in Q4 of 2012
The sometimes-accurate Taiwanese online journal DigiTimes claims that local supply-chain companies expect Apple to ship some four million MacBook models during the current quarter, the company's fiscal final quarter of 2013. A combination of back-to-school demand and the expected debut of a Haswell-powered MacBook Pro model is said to spark the growth -- though the prediction, if true, would mark a shocking spike in MacBook sales compared to both the previous quarter and the year-ago period.
While the DigiTimes report says that Apple normally ships 5-6 million units in the fiscal fourth quarter in "past years," in fact this is untrue. Apple reported four million Macs (of all kinds) sold in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2012, for example, and sold 3.8 million Macs (all models) in the just-reported third quarter -- a better-than-expected result given the slump in the PC industry, though slightly down from the previous quarter's four million units. While the MacBook line is by far Apple's most popular Mac segment, Apple's guidance doesn't indicate such a dramatic spike in sales -- and the prediction ignores the possibility of any other Mac sales.
Despite the inaccuracies in the report, it would not be surprising for Apple to top last quarter's sales of MacBooks if new Haswell-based models appeared in the Pro lineup to complement the already-revised MacBook Air line. While the addition of the new Intel processor saw only marginal CPU speed increases, superior integrated graphics and the enormous power efficiency of the chip alongside additional engineering by Apple enabled enormous increases in battery life, a key selling point that is likely to increase sales going forward.
The non-Retina MacBook Pros were last updated over a year ago, while the Retina portion of the lineup received a minor revision in February. Apple could opt to wait until the release of OS X Mavericks before unveiling the Haswell MBPs, since Mavericks is expected to add to the already-dramatic battery life improvements through its own efficiencies of software and RAM management. Speculation abounds on the topic, since Apple has indicated that new products are not coming until the fall -- but also said that prior to the June debut of the Haswell-equipped MacBook Airs, leaving open the door that a "refreshed" product like a revised MacBook Pro wouldn't "count" as a new product.
The DigiTimes report claims that Apple increased orders for the MacBook Pro in late 2012 when it introduced the 13-inch version, but that sales of that model fell "far short" of expectations, forcing Apple to clear inventories and suspend orders early in 2013. MacNN has not found press reports to corroborate that claim, but agrees with the report that Apple has taken "stricter control" of its supply chain, including adding new suppliers, to put pressure on existing ones -- thus making "order visibility ... shorter than in the past."
While Apple's other Mac products may also gain the Haswell chip or other improvements over time, there a few expectations that such models will appear in the current quarter, which ends September 30, since desktop models will gain little from the energy-efficient emphasis of the Haswell line. Assuming the "fall" deadline is true, Apple is said to be likely to launch most of its major products for the year no earlier than late September -- but that bounty should include a new Mac Pro, new iPhone, new iPad models and the launch of a number of software initiatives, including iOS 7, OS X Mavericks and a "iWork for iCloud" browser-based version of Apple's office suite among other offerings.