They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, and in 2016 it seems we’re going for figurative and literal bedfellows with one so-called October Surprise after another. Some say the evangelical Christian right has adopted a seeming heathen as their candidate of choice.
October Surprise, indeed. Well, here we are, October is moving quickly into the holiday shopping season and where are the Mac surprises? Apple must be working on something new to the Mac, right? After all, the Mac Pro has never seen an upgrade, the Mac mini remains mini everything, including power, and the MacBook Pro has become something of a public embarrassment because even Windows PC makers have premium models with better specifications.
Surprise Is No Surprise?
Let me go down the list. The Retina MacBook Pro has not been updated in nearly a year and a half. The MacBook Air even longer. The Mac mini is nearing two years, the iMac just crossed over a year, and the newer MacBook about six months. The Mac Pro hasn’t been updated ever in over 1,000 days, and the on-life-support MacBook Pro hasn’t seen anything change in nearly four and a half years.
What’s going on? At this point, anything new would be a surprise so why has it taken Apple so long to ready a new line of Macs? Some have speculated that Intel Inside is going outside, to be replaced by an Apple-designed ARM-based CPU on the order of the iPhone’s A-Series ‘Fusion’ CPU. Maybe so, maybe not, but one of the Mac’s most heralded features in the past has been its ability to be the best Windows PC you could buy. The Mac– any of them– runs many versions of Windows, most flavors of Linux, even Unix, and, if you so desire, all of them at the same time.
That flexibility is not likely to happen on a Mac that sports an Apple-designed ARM-based A-Series CPU, so I would be surprised to see Apple dump Intel Inside for Apple-ARM Inside. That said, I see a few corresponding issues that might account for the long refresh cycle on the aforementioned models.
Let me walk through a list of my most promising thoughts to counter the excuses of Apple’s seeming inactivity with the Mac.
First – Intel hasn’t exactly stayed on schedule with newer and faster CPUs. There just isn’t much to write home about when a new Series M in the MacBook is less powerful than a three year old MacBook Air with an i7 dual core CPU– that is priced less.
Second – even if new Intel CPUs were dramatically more powerful, what would they do to help us become more productive? It’s not as though browsing the web, responding to or creating email, updating Calendar or Contacts, or working on Pages, Numbers, and Keynote requires an octo-core Intel CPU. We’re handling taking advantage of the aging CPUs we have now.
Third – the areas of major differentiation among PCs these days, Macs included, are screen resolution and battery life, and the former has an impact on the latter. Apple could well be working on Retina displays at the iMac with 5k Retina level, and with all-day battery life.
Fourth – there’s the idea of the MacPad, a touchscreen Mac-like device that fits between the iPad Pro– not exactly setting the sales world on fire since iPad sales have been dropping for years– and higher priced Intel-based Mac models. The October Surprise could be a hybrid device that comes with a touchscreen and a built-in keyboard but runs iOS 10. Or, macOS Sierra. Or, both.
There are other technologies Apple could toss into the Mac mix other than new Intel CPUs, better battery life, and higher resolution displays. A Lightning connector to replace the headphone jack. Multiple USB-C connectors. A small function key touchscreen with Touch ID built in. These are plausible and overdue.
Time is running out on Apple’s October Surprise.