Apple’s newest Macbook Pro made headlines for two major reasons: One, it was the first major Macbook Pro refresh in four years. Second, it stripped away the standard ports (the SD card slot, USB 2.0, HDMI, and the power connection) and replaced them with four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.
While some have chided Apple for not releasing a complete overhaul reimagining of the laptop, the MacBook Pro points to several important trends in laptops that emerged in 2016 and will carry on through 2017.
1. The rise of USB-C begins.
While the MacBook Pro gained attention for going all-in on USB-C, the port isn’t exactly new. Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C have been out for a few years, and OEMs like Dell, Lenovo, and HP have already released laptops with these ports.
The goal of USB-C is to support accessories and components through a single connector. That’s an exciting development, as the same cable would work for an external display, power, audio, storage, and more.
Though complaints on the internet abound about the adapters needed for these new machines, that’s mostly hand-wringing. With any new technology, there’s a transition period. And already there’s a landscape of products that work with USB-C, including components and accessories that can get you over the hurdle as more manufacturers follow Apple’s lead in ditching other ports.
2. Size does matter.
The evolution toward ever-smaller, ever-thinner laptops might be over and could even start reversing. And that’s a good thing.
For years, engineers have produced chips that are more and more efficient. But at the same time, OEMs have reduced the size of batteries and other components for thinner form factors. So all that extra efficiency hasn’t led to huge leaps in battery life or power. That’s fine for many employees, but for power users, it limits the performance they can get out of the machine.
If form factors were just a bit bigger, all that battery efficiency would be put to good use, keeping machines running for longer without a charge.
On the other hand, some manufacturers are introducing slim, portable computers that can then be docked to gain more processing power, memory, or other specs, giving users different options for different environments.
3. Inputs point out priorities.
2-in-1 devices have been around for a while now, and for certain workers, the flexibility of a hybrid laptop/tablet helps them do their job better.
But most users don’t need a tablet and laptop in equal measure. In a lot of cases, it’s an 80/20 split. You might use a device primarily as a laptop, then take advantage of the touch screen to scroll through a presentation in a meeting. As a result, manufacturers are taking cues from different devices to expand the flexibility of their laptops.
Laptops are pulling in new touch functionality. In the new Macbook Pro, for example, Apple introduced the Touch Bar, a touchscreen display that runs the length of the keyboard, replacing the function keys and power button. It’s a new way of interacting with a device (the Touch Bar’s functions change depending on the application), and it has us rethinking how a laptop can work and how we interact with our favorite apps to be more productive. We expect to see similar capabilities being released by other OEMs in the future.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, tablets are adding bona fide keyboards. Microsoft’s Surface Book, for example, nailed the concept, giving a powerful tablet the keyboard many users need from time to time for more writing-heavy work.
Look for other variations on the 80/20 2-in1 concept as we move into 2017.
Plan your transition
For the first time in a while, users have a lot of good choices in laptops. From Microsoft and Apple to Dell, HP, and Lenovo, it all comes down to use case. What do your employees need technology to help them accomplish? Talk to an expert about your technology needs and capabilities, and how these new features can help.
Contact your SHI Account Executive to learn more about the newest laptops available.