Latest MacBook Pro price reset resembles shift to Retina in 2012

Sticker shock stems from jump after three years of stable prices

Apple's new prices for its MacBook Pro laptops were not out of the ordinary for the company, according to the line's pricing history.

On Oct. 27, Apple introduced three new MacBook Pro models, two of which sport the Touch Bar, a narrow display above the top row of the keyboard that will portray application-specific, touch-sensitive commands and shortcuts.

The starting price for the 15-in. MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar is $2,399, a 20% increase over the starting price of its predecessor. The new 13-in. MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, meanwhile, begins at $1,799, or 20% above its forerunner.

Apple has raised MacBook Pro prices before.

In 2012, the Cupertino, Calif. company set new prices for the MacBook Pro line-up as it transitioned the laptops to the higher-resolution screens it called "Retina," a nod to the same-named feature of its iPhone. The first MacBook Pro to get the Retina treatment was the 15-in. model, which was upgraded in June 2012. That October, Apple did the same for the 13-in. MacBook Pro.

Prices soared.

The 15-in. MacBook Pro with Retina was priced at $1,999 and $2,799 for the two stock configurations, $400 and $500 higher, respectively, than the previous models, for increases of 22% and 27%.

The smaller 13-in. MacBook Pro with Retina saw similar price hikes. Two standard configurations of the notebook were priced at $1,699 and $1,999 at their introduction, $500 and $400 higher than their predecessors. The new prices represented increases of 42% and 33%.

Those prices did not hold for long.

Apple cut prices 12% to 13% for the 13-in. MacBook Pro with Retina in February 2013, just four months after debut. In October 2013, Apple reduced prices a second time during the year, dropping them between 12% and 15%.

(Prices for the 15-in. MacBook Pro with Retina were cut just once in 2013 -- in October -- by between 7% and 9%.)

At the time, analysts argued that the cuts stemmed from the slump in Mac sales, which suffered a four-quarter contraction from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the third of 2013. The MacBook Pro reductions took place during the slowdown. Ironically, the latest MacBook Pro price increases were posted during a slide in Mac sales: Apple has reported lower sales than the previous period since the fourth quarter of 2015. During the September quarter, Mac sales were down 14% from the same span the year before.

With the October 2013 reset for the 13-in. MacBook Pro, Apple pegged prices at $1,299, $1,499 and $1,799 for the three stock configurations. Until this week, those prices had remained stable, even as Apple refreshed the laptop in July 2014 and March 2015.

13 in mbp prices Data: Apple

Prices for stock configurations of Apple's 13-in. MacBook Pro since early 2011 show that the latest reset was similar to the one when the line went to high-resolution 'Retina' displays four years ago.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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