The annual survey by Laptop Mag has given Apple the top spot every year as the best laptop brand since 2010. Except this year. For its 2017 survey, Apple has plummeted down the charts to fifth place alongside Acer but behind Lenovo, Asus, Dell and HP.
From Laptop Mag’s editors:
"To pick the winners, losers and also-rans, we evaluated the 10 biggest laptop brands to determine which offer the best combination of quality products, cutting-edge innovation, helpful support, sleek designs and strong value. Because of its modest review scores, expensive products and lack of ports, Apple fell all the way down to fifth place after receiving top honors every year since the Best and Worst Brands debuted in 2010."Notably, Apple’s lowest scoring category was 'Value and Selection'.
According to Ewan Spence, a Forbes magazine contributor, he doesn't think the issue is with selection. For many years Apple has focused on providing a 'good, better, best' portfolio with a limited number of machines and options. This has served them well and Spence thinks that the consumer market understands the principle.
It's the loss in the value one that will hurt the most inside Cupertino. Apple has always pushed the idea that an investment in a MacBook will provide a return over the lifetime of the device, but this latest releases in the MacBook range - including the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar - have broken that covenant.
Part of this could be down to the resetting of the MacBook cycle. Apple’s newly introduced hardware tends to start at a high price and as the years pass, and the component price drops thanks to Moore’s Law, the price tag drops. The Touch Bar enabled machines have to come in with the bar set very high to allow for the price to drop in the future and still maintain Apple’s high margin - a sound strategy but one that requires a very high initial price.
Unfortunately the 2016 refresh of the MacBook range did not add a huge amount of feature or functionality to the range to go along with the new price. Yes, the Touch Bar was added, but only to the top end models. The Bar creates a secondary interface on these machines but at the cost of removing the function keys. Developers cannot assume that a macOS machine running their code will have the Touch Bar, so anything in the Bar needs to be available in another part of the interface.
Apple also has to contend with the other laptop manufacturers coming to terms with the high-end market and bringing out designs that not only match, but surpass Apple’s choices with the MacBook range. HP’s Spectre 13 offers the thin and ultraportable experience that rivals the MacBook and MacBook Air, the hacker can pick up Linux machines like the Orion that work off the shelf and the gaming community (not particularly well served by Apple) has a mix of gaming laptops from the mainstream manufacturers and companies such as Razer.