What to Expect (and Not Expect) From Apple in 2016

| Particle Debris

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 Back when iTunes 12 was released, I reviewed it and concluded, "iTunes 12 is Apple’s Worst Software Ever, Should Be Withdrawn."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.

Bad form.

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.

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If I get a personal robot, I want it to be voiced by Steven Fry (as Jeeves.)  And if it has a self-defense mode (in case of attempted theft) then it switches to Brian Blessed.


I don’t think personal robots will be Androids (Humanoid in form). I think robots are already here. Think Roomba. Think Nest Thermostats. Systems that do an annoying job quietly in the background. Home Automation is a process of filling your home with little single purpose robots. Just as automatic driving cars started with cars that cam park themselves, robots have started small. I suspect we could see the next generation in the form of a device that will make food. An integrated refrigerator/microwave, that when you say “Frigidare, make me macaroni and cheese”, would pull the ingredients from its built in cupboards and coolers and ten minutes later slide a plate onto the counter. I just don’t think we’ll see Data style Androids for a long time if ever. To take your motor analogy, we made motors in the shape of motors, not horses. We made airplanes in the shape of airplanes, not birds. I work for a company that makes robots. Androids aren’t even discussed. Our robots have to be the form that allows them to do the job they are created for, and a humanoid shape is not the best for what our customers want.

Shameer Mulji 1

“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 your dreams.  Apple will never price the MBA that low. You know better than anyone that Apple doesn’t play the “race to the bottom” game.


@Shameer They don’t play the race to the bottom, but every once in a while they throw a bone to the low end like the Macmini. Or the original MacBook with prices starting at $999 broke the 1k price point line. I’d be surprised if they made a laptop-style computer as low as $549 though. So I agree with “in your dreams”.

Scott B in DC

Within the next 3-5 years, the iWhatever moniker will be eliminated. I can see the renaming of the iPhone to the Apple Phone. The iMac will be just the Mac. The only devices I see with the iWhatever moniker will be the iPods that are still in existence. I’m not sure about the iPad… maybe the Apple Pad or Apple Tablet. But I think that most of the iStuff will be renamed.


Regarding your predictions:
iPad Air 3: Yes but I believe the Pencil will be reserved for the Pro model.
iTunes: They gotta do something. iTunes as it is, is a disaster.
Mac Pro 2: They really need to update it. But the source you linked to strikes me as a bit shaky.
iPhone 6C: I’d be very happy to see it. I like the 4 inch form. My 5C is still going strong though, so barring an unfortunate encounter with an icy sidewalk or a Koy pond, I don’t think I’ll be updating this year.
MacBook Evolution. I do not understand why its selling. It’s not much cheaper than comparably outfitted Air or Pro models. OK truth be told it’s priced similarly to significantly better outfitted Air or Pro models. With its weak processor I just don’t see it as anything but overpriced. But then I’m a big guy so an extra few ounces doesn’t make any difference to me. I just want a 13” screen, decent power, at least 8 GB or RAM and a 512GB HDD. We’ll see what the Air and Pro look like this fall. I’m not expecting to see a MacBook coming close.

It will be an interesting year.

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