It’s one thing to make sober, informed predictions about what Apple may announce next. But, this time, I just want to have fun. Assuming Apple has another event next month in October, what would have me giggling with delight? It’s fun to ponder.
Of course, we’re fairly sure that there will be a new MacBook Pro. Rumors of that model have moved from highly speculative to the almost certain category. I won’t delve into that product any further except to note one thing.
Apple has reserved the quad-core CPUs for the 15-inch MacBook Pros. Accordingly, they are expensive. Today, if you prefer the 13-inch model, you must settle for dual-core. My fantasy is that, if Apple can deal with the heat dissipation issue, that they offer a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a quad-core CPU. Glee.
Also, one can reasonably expect a new iPad Pro 12.9-inch with the A10X Fusion. But what would really get me excited? I’m going to gloss over some technical detail and paint, with a broad brush, what I’d really love to see. Here we go….
1. A New Mac Pro
There are two intersecting threads here. The first thread is the rumor that Apple might convert the Mac line to the A(x) series of ARM processors. However, converting the entire Mac line at once is a monumental and risky engineering challenge. Next, notebooks computers run on battery power most of the time, and so they need to be as efficient as possible. What that tells me is that the right place to start with ARM processor is a pro desktop that has access to A/C power and brings significant computational resources to the table.
The second thread is that Apple seems to be wrestling with its commitment to the professional desktop users. Some people I’ve talked to think that Apple will discontinue the Mac Pro thanks to poor sales and modest opportunities presented by a pro desktop.
Apple could solve that problem with a new, affordable, ARM-based desktop as follows. Let’s imagine a silicon variant of the A10 Fusion without the low-power cores. Call it the A10Z. The specs of this new Mac Pro could be:
- 16 or 32 ARM A10Z CPUs. A real supercomputer.
- 8 Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 ports.
- A base of 32 GB RAM, user expandable to a maximum of 256 GB.
- 512 GB SSD/Flash storage standard.
- A Rosetta-like binary translator in silicon that can translate Intel binary apps into the ARM instruction set.
- Virtual machine hardware in the A10Z so that apps like Parallels Desktop can still run their Intel VMs
- An advanced but affordable (second) GPU that runs OpenCL flawlessly, just as the current Mac Pro has two AMD FirePros.
Such a Mac Pro might be able to benchmark, even with instruction set translation, at over 50 teraflops. It would be a nice workhorse for developers to build their native ARM apps for other Macs when they’re introduced by Apple in 2017.
Now that would be cool.
2. 5th Generation Apple TV
A new Apple TV with a stylish, Jony Ive inspired design would please me greatly.. I’ve always thought the black brick was ugly and uninspired. This 5th generation Apple TV would meet theUHD Alliance Premium specs, support 3840 x 2160p resolution at 60/120 Hz, have 10-bit color, HDR, and BT.2020 color space.
Roku is set to deliver a similar device on October 7th, the Roku Ultra. It has a beautiful industrial design. With 4K UHD TVs mainstream now, Amazon and Netflix doing selected 4K UHD streaming, several 4K UHD Blu-ray players available, and DirecTV’s 4K UHD HR54 out now. it’s time for Apple to jump in, just in time for the holidays.
We’ve complained when Apple didn’t refresh its Mac line on the one year anniversaries in 2016, Surely, we wouldn’t complain when Apple updates a $149 device each year.
3. The Old MacBook Air New Again
I’d be delighted to see the MacBook Air take advantage of the economies of scale developed during its lifetime. I’m sure Apple could manufacture and sell an updated MBA with a Skylake processor, one additional USB-C port (in addition to all the previous, legacy ports) for under US$600. It would retain the non-Retina display. It would allow Apple to better compete in the education market. It’s position, at the entry level of the notebook line, would bring forth some needed product coherence, be irresistible to high school and college students, yet maintain Apple’s tradition of excellence.
4. Bonus Points
I know this isn’t an Apple Event worthy item, but it’s still a fantasy. I’ve had my 2015 MacBook since May of 2015. I fell in love with its keyboard on day one. I’ve been hoping that Apple would ship a stand-alone keyboard, using the butterfly mechanism, to replace my Apple Aluminum Keyboard that I use with my desktop Mac.
Apple has not done so yet. Probably because I’m one of the few people who loves this keyboard design with the short-throw keys.