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Why Apple Inc. Should Wait Until Early 2017 to Refresh the MacBook Air

Image source: Apple. 

According to Bloomberg, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is planning a positively gargantuan refresh of its popular Mac product lines. iMacs, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs are all expected to get some upgrade love, something that could help Apple start retaking share from its competition.

Bloomberg says that the new Macs are expected to start launching in late 2016. Although it makes sense for the company to release the new MacBook Pro models later this year, it would be in Apple's best interests to hold off until early 2017 to update the MacBook Air systems. Here's why.

Apple needs to get in on seventh-generation Core processors

Apple's current MacBook Air systems currently use Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) fifth-generation Core processors, also known by their code name, Broadwell. It's worth noting that Intel launched its sixth-generation Core processor family in late 2015, and Apple didn't bother to update its MacBook Air systems to use these new processors.

Apple could go ahead and use sixth-generation Core processors in its refreshed MacBook Air systems, but it seems a bit strange to adopt a processor family after it's been completely replaced by newer models. Instead, it makes sense for Apple to simply wait a little bit longer for the appropriate seventh-generation Core processors to become available.

It wouldn't exactly be a long wait

The processors Apple uses in its MacBook Air family of systems tend to be higher-performance variants with significantly more chip area dedicated to graphics processing than the chips that most other personal-computer vendors use. Typically, these parts arrive a little bit later than their less-sophisticated counterparts, but for premium systems, the slight wait and additional cost can be worth it.

According to Intel, seventh-generation Core notebook parts with Iris graphics will launch in January, approximately four months from now. Apple can easily hold off until then. After all, the refreshed MacBook Pro systems, which will presumably come with sixth-generation Intel Core processors with Iris Pro graphics, should be able to hold customer attention until chips suitable for a refreshed MacBook Air arrive.

This strategy would put Apple back on track

Although computer buyers tend to care about much more than the processor inside the system -- and this is especially the case for Apple's systems, as they are unique in many other ways relative to the competition -- I do think it would be best for Apple to stay as current as possible with respect to processors.

As Apple very well knows, given the amount of money it spends developing its homebrew A-series processors for its iPhone and iPad lineups, faster processors translate into faster and better user experiences. Why should a company like Apple, which participates only in the premium portion of the personal-computer market, settle for anything but the best processors for its systems?

Once Apple "resets" its MacBook Air lineup by updating them to seventh-generation Core processors, it can make sure to stay on track to annual processor upgrades from that point on. Doing so should help Apple's MacBook Air systems remain competitive in the marketplace, helping it to potentially grow share and maintain, or even grow, its system average selling prices, as it won't have to rely on aggressive pricing to try to move older products.  

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.