Apple Inc. (AAPL) reportedly is working on redesigns of the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, with key features being mini-LED displays and the use of Apple's internally developed and produced M1 semiconductor chip. According to a research note from widely followed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities, two new MacBook Pro models are in the works to debut in 2021, also offering a new form factor (i.e., new look and size) versus current models. Additionally, per the same report, a "more affordable" version of the MacBook Air is moving toward release in 2022.  

TF International Securities is an asset management firm founded in 2016 and based in Hong Kong. To develop his research notes on Apple, Ming-Chi Kuo relies on "intelligence from his contacts in Apple's Asian supply chain," and "while he is not always correct, his predictions on future Apple products are accurate enough to make him one of the most reliable sources for Apple rumors."

  • Apple is reportedly redesigning its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
  • Mini-LED displays are reportedly a key feature, which offer better image contrast and quality.
  • Also, the form factors (look and size) of these Macs may be changing.
  • Releases of the new models are projected for 2021 and 2022.
  • Annual Mac sales may double in three years as a result.

Significance for Investors

In his optimistic scenario, Kuo projects that MacBook shipments may double in three years to as many as 35 million units per year. Meanwhile, Kuo believes that Apple will offset the increased cost of mini-LED displays by using its own M1 chips, which are significantly cheaper than the processors from Intel Corporation (INTC) that previously have been at the heart of MacBooks.

While Kuo did not indicate that the new MacBook models would include touch screens, this remains a possibility, perhaps further into the future. Specifically, the M1 chip already powers the iPhone and iPad, and M1-powered MacBooks support the apps that run on these other Apple devices. 

Macs have been selling well during the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue up by 28% year over year in the fourth quarter of Apple's fiscal year 2020, which ended on Sept. 26, 2020. A significant change in form factor (i.e., design) alone may help to boost sales yet more. Apple typically changes its form factor every four to four and a half years, and the last change was made in MacBooks that shipped in late 2016.

Additionally, the new mini-LED screens are supposed to offer improved image quality over existing LCD and OLED displays, which could be a big selling point for users who edit photographs and videos on MacBooks.

What Mini-LEDs Offer

As the name implies, a mini-LED is a very small LED component. Currently, laptops with LEDs for backlighting typically use a small number behind a larger area. The switch to mini-LEDs means that more will be installed in the backlight layer, creating more even backlighting and thus deeper blacks and greater contrast.