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Apple just proved it's not done with computers yet

Daniel Howley

Apple (AAPL) isn’t messing around when it comes to laptops and desktops anymore. The company, which has long been criticized for not updating its MacBook and Mac line of products to match competitors, made that clear on Monday at its massive Worldwide Developers Conference.

In addition to the new iOS 11 and Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker, CEO Tim Cook and company revealed sweeping performance improvements to its MacBook, MacBook Pro and iMac lines, as well as an all-new iMac Pro for professional consumers.

In other words, Apple is finally taking the desktop and laptop seriously again.

MacBooks are getting a boost

When Apple rolled out its new MacBook Pros in 2016, the company received the equivalent of a loud groan from customers hoping for the latest and greatest tech in their next laptop. That’s because, among other things, Apple saddled its most powerful MacBooks with Intel’s sixth-generation processors rather than the newer seventh-gen chips.

This time around, however, Apple has packed the MacBook Pro with those seventh-generation Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. It might sound silly to bemoan the fact that last year’s MacBooks used processors that were only slightly outdated. But if I’m ponying up well more than $1,000 for a new computer, it better have the latest processor on the market.

The move, along with speed improvements to the MacBook and a slight bump to the MacBook Air line, was clearly designed to help ensure Apple can fight off competition from the likes of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface Book and Surface Pro products.

There are, however, lingering questions about the MacBook Pro’s battery life. Our own David Pogue says that he only gets about six to seven hours of use from his 13-inch Pro rather than the 10 hours Apple claims the notebook should get.

If the new MacBook Pros can address that issue, they’ll likely be the best around.

iMacs that matter

Apple’s iMacs are the forgotten children of the company’s lineup. But at WWDC the company rolled out a slew of much needed upgrades for its all-in-one desktops including seventh-generation Intel processors, new AMD graphics chips, faster solid-state storage drives and brighter displays.

Then there’s the iMac Pro. Apple left its last-generation Mac Pro out in the cold for so long it seemed like the company might never give its most powerful desktop any meaningful improvements.

But the company threw that doubt out the window at WWDC with the debut of the iMac Pro. A beastly machine, the all-in-one Pro packs a 27-inch 5K resolution Retina display and can be outfitted with an 18-core Intel Xeon processor, 128GB of RAM and a 4TB solid-state drive. Those numbers are just ludicrous.

What’s more, with its upcoming macOS High Sierra, Apple is finally bringing VR capabilities to the iMac. That’s a huge deal considering no VR headset is currently compatible with Apple’s machines.

Will it change the market?

I’m a computer speed freak, so when a new laptop or desktop comes out I immediately look at its performance. From the looks of it, Apple’s offerings are easily in line with similar systems from Microsoft and its OEM partners.

Apple fans in particular will find the changes incredibly worthwhile, as they’ve likely been waiting for significant improvements to these systems, especially the iMac line, for some time.

But how will that impact the company’s bottom line?

“The announcement was a great gesture for Apple to tell the users that they are not giving up on Mac business,” explained Gartner Research’s Mikako Kitagawa. Still, she said Apple’s announcements aren’t likely to push the needle on Mac sales going forward.

“I could not find remarkable functions or features that can stimulate the demand,” Kitagawa said. “It may stimulate replacement demand of iMac, as the refresh was overdue. But I could see anything that could motivate non-Mac users to switch to Mac (for both iMac and MacBook).

As IDC analyst Linn Huang points out, Apple’s iMac moves are more of a response to the competition than anything else.

“I don’t see this as Apple driving a refreshed interest in the all-in-one market,” Huang said. “This to me feels more like a rebuttal.”

Still, by rolling out significantly improved desktops and faster laptops, Apple is signaling to its audience, and the market in general, that it’s not giving up on traditional computers any time soon. And that’s likely to keep plenty of Apple fans more than happy.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.