Apple is finally overhauling its computers

Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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On Oct. 27, Apple will refresh its Mac laptops and desktops, according to a report from Recode yesterday. Rumors have been swirling for some time that Apple would be holding a press event to show off its latest MacBooks, but this is the first indication that Apple also plans to update its less-portable computers. Many of Apple’s computers haven’t been updated in over a year, and some, like the trashcan-shaped Mac Pro, haven’t been updated in nearly three years.

Details about what the new computers are likely to have onboard have been light, but there have been reports that the new laptops will have thin LED touchscreens above the keyboard that will replace function buttons and dynamically display information, such as the song you’re listening to on iTunes.

In recent weeks, Bloomberg has reported that Apple is scaling back its grand plan of building an electric (or self-driving) car, laying off or reassigning many employees that had been working on the project. The company also released its latest iPhone, which, other than packing a more powerful camera and coming in some new colors, was not much more than an incremental upgrade on the last two models it released. The company is also nearing completion on its massive new spaceship-shaped headquarters in Cupertino, California, so it seems, with all these projects aside, Apple is finally getting around to updating its computers, the products it’s been making longer than anything else.

Amazingly, even though Apple still hasn’t officially confirmed it’s launching any new computers this month (and didn’t respond to comment for this story), rumors are swirling about what its next batch of computers will be able to do. A report from the Wall Street Journal (paywall) today claims that Apple laptops in 2018 may ship with e-ink keys, where each individual key will be able to display different symbols as needed—switching between QWERTY, emoji, and foreign languages dynamically, for example.

Worldwide computer sales have been slumping in recent years, but Apple’s sales have decreased more slowly than the majority of its large competitors. Mac sales are the second-largest slice of the company’s hardware sales behind the iPhone. Perhaps Apple has realized that it’s a lot easier to update computers—which still have a healthy profit margin—than it is to break into the automotive industry, where, as Bloomberg pointed out, automakers tend to subside on single-digit margins. Or maybe it’s just that it’d be a lot easier to get some fancy new computers into its revamped stores than a car might’ve been.

Update (4:10pm): Apple has just sent out invites to an event at its Cupertino, California headquarters on Oct. 27 with the message “Hello again.” Seems safe to think that the company may be using the event to reintroduce the world to its years-out-of-date computers.