It's fascinating to watch every iteration of devices like the iPhone or MacBook Pro. How different functions form, how their prices are calculated, and how companies like Apple receive feedback from their customers is a complex and ever-changing process.

The term "product lifecycle" can be used as a framework to help users understand not only how these iterations come about, but why. This model takes into account market forces, user interests and technological advances and logically balances them all.

Mac computers are particularly affected by this life cycle. Hence, they are an interesting case study. Let's look at the product lifecycle related to Apple's MacBook range to learn more.

What is the product lifecycle?

The product life cycle is effectively the period of time between the launch of a product – also as a preview or teaser – and the discontinuation of the same product. There are four main phases: introduction, growth, Maturity, and decline. There is no set time for products to enter, stay in, or exit each of these stages.

introduction usually focuses on raising consumer awareness through advertising and marketing to make them aware of the new product and its benefits. growth follows when the product is successful, this phase being characterized by demand and increased production.

Maturity, as the top-selling level, the production and marketing costs decrease, so that more units can come out. In the end, decline occurs when competitors enter the market, technological advances render a product obsolete, or consumers lose interest.

One of the most important factors to consider is that newer, salable, or more advanced products push older ones out of the maturity phase and into decay quickly. Apple's machine-like efficiency means this cycle repeats itself quickly, especially with devices like the MacBook Pro, which are among the core offerings.

What does the product lifecycle mean for Mac devices?

Image Source: Artist / Apple Products: A Discussion of the Product Lifecycle

Mac products have an average lifecycle of around 3.5 years, with new models coming out around every 1.5 years, depending on the model release date. As mentioned earlier, this is due to Apple's awareness of the market and its future, and depends on the sales and acceptance of individual devices.

As you may have noticed, few different Mac models have hit the market since the line was launched in 2006. While Macs have a relatively short average life cycle time, there are several influencing factors that can explain why the reality of these devices is very different. This average life cycle likely takes into account models like the original MacBook that are now completely obsolete. It probably plays a role on desktop devices like the iMac too, which we've avoided here to keep the scope reasonable.

Part of the reason that few new Mac models have hit the market is because those products don't have to compete internally. You can take the 12 primary iPhone generations (as well as Mini, Pro, Pro Max, XS, XR, X, Plus, and regular offshoots) as a good example of the intermingling and competition between models.

Another reason is that the sales figures for the MacBook Pro in particular have remained constant. This means that the device has had an extended maturity phase. The fact that the Pro model was so well received that it is now considered a “go-to” laptop also contributes to this.

In the same way, this also means that the advertising costs are minimal. Apple was also smart about redesigning models like the MacBook Pro without having to reset and ship an entirely new generation of devices.

Basically, both market forces and user demand have a huge impact on Apple's products. While not explicitly discussed, the product lifecycle shows us how these changes can affect progress. The graphic above shows this well.

What will happen to MacBooks in the future?

In fact, the product lifecycle underscores Apple's need to be a constant innovator and provider of products of exceptional standard. The MacBook range has already proven itself in many ways. As a result, the company didn't have to iterate really quickly, fend off competition, or change strategy.

Read More

Compared to devices like the iPhone, which will change rapidly due to its technology and role as a small computer, Macs have firmly established themselves as rugged, innovative and functional devices. This is no reason to say that Apple has stopped thinking about optimizing its devices, nor a perfect prediction of future consumer needs and wants.

In retrospect, the surest conclusion is that the Mac laptop lineup is not as subject to the whims of the product lifecycle as something like the iPhone. It is subject to the ups and downs of the market, technological developments and the will of its consumers, but far less than other available technologies.

Apple's MacBook devices are an interesting case study to use with this in mind. Their development pattern is still influenced or even explained by the product life cycle, but not nearly as strongly as with other products. It can help us gain a little more insight into the growth or decline of such products, but it cannot be used as a generalized explanation for it.

Additionally, you should understand planned obsolescence and how it can affect product release decisions.

The product lifecycle shows why MacBooks iterate

While the various elements of the cycle help us get a more complete picture, the forces that drive technological advancement are often hidden, unexpected, or quick to emerge. Sometimes we can't keep track of all the ups and downs.

Because of this, many people see Apple and Mac products as innovative. Unlike the average person, they keep a better eye on the state of the tech world.

How long do Macs actually last?

We've all heard that Macs last longer than PCs, but how long do they actually last?

Continue reading

About the author

Elliott Gooding
(2 articles published)

More
By Elliott Gooding

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for tech tips, reviews, free e-books, and exclusive offers!

One more step …!

Please confirm your email address in the email we just sent you.

Expand to read the full story