Apple’s troubled butterfly keyboard mechanism has cast a dark shadow across its entire MacBook lineup, leading to reports that the company would update its popular MacBook Air laptops with a glass fiber-based scissor keyboard mechanism later this year. Now top supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says (via MacRumors) that the improved keyboard will launch first in a deluxe model — a 16-inch MacBook Pro — before making its way into the company’s lower-end laptops in 2020.
For Apple, which was petitioned, sued, and forced to implement a free repair program over the keyboard issues, the optics of rolling out a mandatory improvement in a particularly expensive laptop aren’t great. Rumors suggest that the 16-inch MacBook Pro is coming later this year at an entry price tag of roughly $3,000, higher than the already steep $2,400 cost of its most affordable 15-inch laptop. On the other hand, no one in their right mind would sink that sort of money into a brand new machine with a component that’s been causing problems for years.
Or would they? Apple’s decision to roll out a scissor keyboard first in a high-end model may depend on something that’s no longer transparent in its quarterly reports: whether MacBook sales have actually been affected by persistent complaints about the butterfly keyboards. If so, waiting until next year to properly address their problems might impact holiday sales of MacBook Airs and 13-inch MacBook Pros, which in recent years were among Apple’s most popular computers. But if not, introducing a new keyboard solely at the top end of its MacBook lineup might not bother the masses of customers with less money to spend.
According to Kuo, all of Apple’s other laptops will shift from butterfly to scissor keyboards in 2020, while the accessory keyboards offered for iPads will continue to use squishy rubber dome mechanisms. The analyst notably suggests that the current 15.4-inch MacBook Pro will continue to live on after the 16-inch model is introduced, receiving its scissor keyboard update in 2020. If that’s accurate, it might signal a line of ultra-deluxe laptops akin to the expensive Mac Pro with Pro Display XDR introduced in June at WWDC, possibly with premium OLED or mini LED screens, which Apple has reportedly been considering for new MacBooks.