Will People Eventually Stop Buying MacBooks and Buy Tablets Instead?

Charlie Wolf, a market analyst with Needham & Company, predicted that Mac sales would drop as lower cost tablets grew in popularity. Both Mac and PC sales did drop for a while, but Mac experienced a resurgence in the holiday 2013 quarter, selling 4.8 million units to its previous 4.1 million units. Mac has continued to hold steady in the desktop market as PCs have declined. The company has also maintained the starting price of the MacBook line at $1,300 per unit. Wolf’s latest analysis pushed the Mac portion of Apple’s share price up 5.6 percent to $42.03 per share (of a total $590 per share value).

Tablets

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in 2013 that “cannibalization” was a huge opportunity for Apple. He stated that although iPads were eating into some Mac sales, they were eating into far more Windows sales. He cited what Apple calls “the halo effect,” which suggests that people who buy one Apple product will likely buy another. In fact, rumors are already going around about new features in the next line of Macs and MacBooks. Many people choose Macs for their better security features, although Mac users still need antivirus for Mac products. They also continue to choose Macs and MacBooks for their intuitive features and innovative new offerings.

Gesture Control

In February 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent owned by Apple, Inc. The patent revealed that Apple has developed a way to hide infrared sensors in Macs and MacBooks without interrupting the Mac aesthetic. Ambient light sensors, infrared sensors, cameras and indicator lights could all be tucked into the slim Mac design. In other words, expect the new Macs and MacBooks to utilize gesture control.

One of the biggest obstacles to gesture control is hiding the sensors that enable the feature. Apple has accomplished this by developing a two-component masking assembly that prevents the reflection of external light. One component polarizes light entering the sensors, and the other component, a waveplate, shifts the axis of light that is polarized by the first component. Light doesn’t reflect back from the sensors, which effectively conceals them. The components would be enabled by a proximity sensor, which would activate the controls when the user made a gesture.
Solar Powered Dual Screens
The Asus Taichi 21 convertible tablet, released in early 2013, combined a tablet touchscreen on the rear exterior and a notebook on the inside. The biggest complaint about the machine was its terrible battery life. That, plus the fact that only one screen was touch-enabled.

Apple has tackled the dual-screen battery life issue. In January 2014, the company earned a patent for a solar powered dual-screen design. The design would mimic the Asus setup but would embed photovoltaic cells in the rear of the machine. Every time those machines came into contact with light, they would charge the battery to compensate for the power drain associated with dual screen operation.

Shock and Awe

Since Steve Jobs passed away, Apple has struggled to match its previous “shock and awe” product rollouts. It has released incremental improvements to its products and should continue to do so this year. According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple plans to release a 12-inch ultra-slim Retina MacBook in mid-2014. This release may tie in with the company’s usual WWDC summer rollouts, which could include not only the new MacBook but also iOS 8 and OS X 10.10.

When iPad was released, Steve Jobs heralded the beginning of the post-PC era. He said that PCs would become like trucks; they’d be around, but not everyone would need one. As the Macintosh moves past its 30th birthday, it still seems to have plenty of longevity ahead of it. Tim Cook continues to say that Apple is working on “really cool things” for Mac. As Cook told The Wall Street Journal, “We believe as people walk away from the PC, it becomes clear that the Mac is what you want if you want a PC.”

In other words, if Apple’s mobile products are eating into Mac sales in the course of drawing more people into buying Apple products, so be it. Mac security, innovation and a loyal customer base should keep new MacBooks rolling out of Cupertino for years to come.

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