In 2015, Apple released the new MacBook, the Apple Watch and the much anticipated iPad Pro. What will 2016 be like? Will there be unexpected, new products? I surmise this will be a year of hardware and software consolidation and refinement.
There will be, of course, the iPhone 7 in September. That's a given. However, I want to look at just a few of Apple's other potential products right now.
1. iPad Air 3. There will be signs. The signs will be when the Apple retail stores have a flood of Apple Pencils. That's because I think the iPad Air 3 (and all future iPad Airs and Pros) will support the Apple Pencil. Accordingly, Apple can't really ship an iPad Air 3 until the Apple Pencil is in abundance. Call it March. I think it'll have an A9X (the A10 certainly isn't ready this spring) and better speakers. More speed, better sound and Apple Pencil support will be enough.
iPad Air 3. Wait for signs.
2. iTunes Becomes "Music" on the Mac. Back when iTunes 12 was released, I reviewed it and concluded, "iTunes 12 is Apple’s Worst Software Ever, Should Be Withdrawn." Apple hasn't done that, but back when iTunes 12 was released, the specter of a product called "iTunes 13" must have given the product manager pause.
Now, I'm not a superstitious person and neither is Apple. Even so, the magnitude of the outcry against iTunes 12 has been so strong and pervasive that I just have to belive that Apple has been hard at work on a replacement—in the way Photos replaced iPhoto.
It doesn't make sense to separate playback from discovery and purchase/streaming, but it does make sense to separate out iDevice sync and backup. Plus, I believe there are huge strides to be made in the elegance, simplicity, and intuitiveness in the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
If not in 2016, with OS X 10.12 in October, then early 2017.
3. Mac Pro 2. The Mac Pro is not a consumer Mac. It doesn't need to be refreshed every year like the iMac. The question is, where is the next Mac Pro after nearly three years? More to the point, where is Apple's committent to this glorious "Halo" Mac (as in Halo Car.)
Mac Pro 2? There are signs.
I think the answer is that Apple wanted to sit back, watch sales, evaluate the reaction of the professional community and then create a next generation Mac Pro, sans the current internal hardware restrictions. With new Xeon processors and no-brainer upgradability to 128 GB, the Mac Pro in 2016 should be so tempting that those who bought the original in 2013 (if they could get one) would be primed to upgrade, guaranteeing continued (modest) success.
The robotic plant in Austin is too big a deal to throw away. Plus, there are signs.
But there's more. What display will Apple recommend pairing with this new Mac Pro 2? Surely, Apple is already vastly embarrassed by the continuation of the obsolete 27-inch Thunderbolt display from 2011. Perhaps there's a new Apple 4K (or 5K) modern, perhaps curved, companion display. Otherwise, Apple is telling its Mac Pro customers that the company simply can't conjure the resources to offer a great, modern display and they should look elsewhere.
4. A 4-inch iPhone 6c. This is an interesting concept. The idea would be a 4-inch LCD display, metal (not plastic) case, no 3D Touch, and a lower price point to attract customers switching from Android. It would, however, have NFC to support Apple Pay. It's an intriguing idea. On one hand, Apple tends to stay upscale. On the other hand, I read that the iPhone 5c sold better than we knew. And with a very strong U.S. dollar, it makes sense to have a low end offering in certain foreign markets. It will make money the way no Android smart phone can.
5. MacBook/Air Evolution. The 2015 MacBook is selling very well. It may even be a source of cannibalization of the iPad line. In any case, my sense is that the MacBook is Apple's new, flagship platform for advanced notebook technology: conformal batteries, USB-C, new keyboard, Force Touch, better keyboard backlighting, low weight. We'll see, I think, a faster MacBook with up to 16 GB RAM and maybe a companion with a larger display in 2016.
The future of the MacBook line is the ... MacBook
Meanwhile, Apple has stiff competition in education from the Chromebooks, and the company needs, in my opinion, a lower priced entry level model to satisfy the education market. A non-retina MacBook Air, with standard USB-A ports, helped by the economies of scale and lower component costs for its older technologies places the 11 or 13-inch MacBook Air in a position to be the $549 entry level MacBook Air students have been waiting for.
In any case, I don't believe, now, that there will ever be a Retina MacBook Air.
These are my thoughts in January of 2016. Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be "One more thing." There usually is.
6. Apple Watch. [UPDATE: I saved my thoughts about an Apple Watch 2, likely in 2016, for this subsequent article: "Can the Next Apple Watch Be Any Thinner?"]
Next: The Tech News Debris for the Week of January 18th. Wait for signs.