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Apple's New MacBook Pros Put It Back in the Game for Back-to-School Season

Ashraf Eassa, The Motley Fool

One of the most important periods for the personal computer market is the back-to-school shopping season, so computer makers generally want to have fresh new systems to offer shoppers during this time.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), which market research company IDC says was the fourth-largest personal computer vendor by unit shipments during the second quarter of 2018, released new MacBook Pro computers on July 12 -- just in time for the back-to-school shopping season.

Apple's MacBook Pro.

Image source: Apple.

Let's go over what Apple's brought to the table and why these new systems position the company's MacBook Pro lineup to continue to lead the premium portion of the notebook personal computer market.

Upgrades across the board

The new systems incorporate a number of solid upgrades. Apple's moving from Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) seventh-generation Core processors to its eighth-generation Core chips. These new processors are good for as much as a 70% boost in processor performance for the 15-inch MacBook Pro and a doubling in processing power for the 13-inch model, according to Apple.

The 15-inch model is also now configurable with 32 GB of memory, which addresses a limitation of last year's model that some buyers weren't too thrilled about. The 13-inch model, however, is still limited to 16 GB.

The new systems also integrate Apple's T2 chip, which Apple says "delivers enhanced system security with support for secure boot and on-the-fly encrypted storage." It also, Apple says, enables the "Hey Siri" functionality on the new devices -- a feature that was previously limited to Apple's iOS devices.

And, finally, the new computers feature Apple's True Tone display technology, which adjusts the color temperature of the display to match the lighting conditions surrounding the machine. This is a feature that's been available on Apple's iPad lineup since 2016 and on the iPhone models that launched last year.

All told, these are solid upgrades to Apple's MacBook Pro lineup. The processor performance improvement alone is probably the biggest leap in advertised performance gains for the MacBook Pro in several generations, something that should appeal to power users.

The bigger picture

Apple's Mac business represents a small portion of the company's overall sales figures -- 11% during fiscal year 2017. So, from a big-picture perspective, the performance of Apple's Mac business isn't something that's going to have a dramatic impact on Apple's financial performance or stock price either way.

Apple's financial performance is still very much driven first and foremost by its iPhone product line. However, that doesn't mean that the other businesses should be neglected, since, in aggregate, they make up a sizable chunk of Apple's total revenue.

Fortunately, it looks like Apple is starting to focus even more on strengthening its Mac hardware and software.

With the releases of these two new MacBook Pros, Apple has positioned itself well to compete for high-end notebook personal computer sales over the next year or so.

With that in mind, Apple's work with respect to the Mac isn't done yet. It still needs to update its iMac desktop line as well as its 12-inch MacBook. Fortunately, according to TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, those will be coming later this year.

Speaking of Kuo, he also says that Apple is preparing a lower-cost MacBook product for later this year as well. Apple has been selling its rather dated MacBook Air computer at lower price points for a while now (for some context, the current MacBook Air uses a processor that's more than three years old). That product is sorely in need of a refresh.

The new MacBook Pros represent a solid start to what should be a rather substantial set of refreshes and additions to its Mac product portfolio.

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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.