Apple strategy for the next iPads and Macs and stuff
Hi, I wrote this post before the iPad event, and now I think we can have a discussion for Apple's next year products, because this year it's done, some unwarranted Mac mini update and Thunderbolt 2 Display notwithstanding. I know there already are multiple posts about this, but I want to make another to go with my original post and add some misc thoughts.
These are guesses based on Apple's patterns, on the premise that there will be no radical rethinking of their existing product lines next year.
The next iPads
Naming: The iPad Air paves the way to the iPad Pro, Apple would never cheesily name it like that without knowing they would have sparked the "Pro" speculation and expectation. It did make sense though, given the weight loss, but still, there will be an iPad Pro.
Design: HOW CAN YOU REFINE IT MORE THAN IT ALREADY IS? Seriously though, what's new from the (next) iPhone will trickle onto the iPad. So read my previous post for wild guesses, and Touch ID will be included (come on, it'll have been a year already and Touch ID is a breakthrough the kind Apple wants to have on all its products like the Retina display).
Screen sizes: So, what is Pro about the iPad Pro? If only the screen size increased, there wouldn't be much to talk about. As MacBooks, "Pro" must have better ppi and larger display. So this is what I imagine they would do: use their beloved 326ppi panel to make an 11-to-12 in screen with 4:3 ratio and create a new layout for the Pro. Both the existing iPads are 2048×1536px with 4x5 grid plus dock, take the Mini (7.9 in) and expand it 1.5 times both dimensions to 11.85 in, 2304 x 3072 px, 326ppi with 5x6 grid plus dock, and you have an iPad Pro.
(Interestingly, if the screen is 9.875 in (just a tad larger than 9.7 in) it would be 1920 x 2560 px with 326ppi, there a chance Apple will just cram this display into the iPad Air and call it the Pro, I'd absolutely love it way more than the above big ass Pro version)
In my previous post I believed Apple will double the iPhone ppi and total pixel count will increase to 2272 x 1280px. The A8 surely can drive that many pixels and if 2304x3072=7 million pixels is too many there always a bigger, more power-hungry X version to fall back to (because it will be used in a much larger iPad) if they can't make it one-for-all like the A7. (side note: there was an extremely stupid report from Ming Chi Kuo stated A7X would be in regular iPad and A7 in retina mini, I mean, the X version is designed for better graphic performance, both of them have the same pixel counts why need two versions?)
So there will be three sizes of iPads: the mini, the Air and the Pro. I don't expect any difference at OS level (like multiple windows, side-by-side apps exclusively for the Pro, just not the way Apple does thing, if you can do it on one iPad you can do it on all iPads) just differences in sizes, and maybe accessories like a keyboard cover for the Pro (heh).
More about size: John Gruber has a piece, and this is the interesting part, emphasis mine:
This, in turn, gives me hope regarding any potential move Apple might make next year with regard to a larger-display iPhone. What I don’t want to see is a single iPhone 6 with a larger display (and correspondingly larger physical size). What I’m hoping for is that, if Apple produces a larger iPhone, that it debuts alongside a 4-inch display iPhone with the exact same specs — same A8 processor, same better-than-the-5S camera, same storage capacities. Same everything, except for the size of the display.
If Apple can do this with the iPad, why not the iPhone too? The only complication I can think of is that with the iPad Air and Mini, both sport the same pixel count, 2048 × 1536. I’m not sure that an 1136 × 640 display at a bigger display size will satisfy those who desire a physically larger iPhone.
In my previous post, I didn't think Apple will introduce 2 flagship iPhone and I stand by that, my reason is solely that unlike other products, iPhone is their shining beacon and they'd prefer to focus on one at a time (even in a 5s/5c situation there's still only one flagship). The 5s is more than good enough for a "flagship mid tier" (they may drop the gold option if they keep it around next year), there's no need to engineer two new phones. But the last line above reaffirms my thinking that Apple will double the retina ppi if they decide to produce a larger iPhone.
Until the Great Convergence, there's little excitement. MacBook Air will have Retina and distilled into only one size (12 in, between the iPad Pro and 13 in Mac Pro) It will be the One MacBook to rule them all. The Pro will have the 17 in again (shocker!) MacBooks will have color options, between silver and space gray, I believe Apple has found its new favorite color. The Mac mini is dead design-wise, it's the iPod classic of Macs. Let's see how long this Mac Pro design lasts.
The iMac: One reason I believe Apple hasn't introduced a 4K Thunderbolt 2 Display is because of the iMac. TBD is one generation behind the iMac design-wise. I suppose Apple is weighing options very carefully in this space, with the inevitable Retina iMac (whatever definition that is) and the mythical Apple TV, I believe this announcement will be one of those WOW event. So don't expect silent update, expect something BIG.
I think going forward, iPad mini will be the best seller (the most obvious low-hanging fruit, Retina display, was completed) so I actually doubt the Air/Pro strategy. Like I said, I'd love for Apple to simplify its product line more and one 9.875 in iPad with 1920 x 2560 px display is distinctive enough from the mini (which is, IMO, the absolute perfect computer if one day Apple could just cram OS X in it and make it plug-and-play Mac-on-the-go). Unlike larger phones, I don't see the need for larger tablets (there is but it would be a niche much smaller than the big ass phone market).
Apple may rethink their plastic iOS devices strategy, they have moved away and returned to plastic from time to time, I don't think this time it'll stick around for long.
I also believe Apple's separation between touch/mouse UI is a sound decision (for now). I don't know what will be the tipping point but the way Surfaces and convertibles do it is kind of a primitive "pre-iPhone smartphone" way and I hope Apple, if anyone, will be the one solving it elegantly. I don't know how, like a hidden OS X that pops up when plugged in or something.
iWatch and iPod: If Apple stops neglecting the iPod and starts asking what can we do here then we'll talk, but iOS is the way of the future, and Apple may think the less resource into those iPods the better. But when the iWatch comes out (if ever) I expect the whole iPod line will be killed off (they are too fragmented even now) except the iPod touch. They don't actually need sub-$100 halo devices at all now.
Here's what I think would be crazy (crazily awesome): the iPod touch will become larger (same as the larger iPhone) and renamed iPad nano. All other iPods are dead. Comes the (previously wildly speculated) iWatch as the BRAND NEW APPLE's iPOD. Think about it, Apple has reused moniker before (the iSight camera). iPod is iconic, and iWatch is, frankly, as lame a name as iTV or iPC, and unimaginative (Steve Jobs initially didn't like the obvious "iPhone" name and actually considered "iPad"). There's no more place on apple.com for another name: Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod and iTunes. Now if Apple TV (and/or whatever Apple's livingroom solution is) takes iTunes's place, obviously iWatch will take the iPod's place (both on the site and in use) so why not takes its name also?
The iWatch/new iPod or any Apple wearable smart device has to come with frictionless wireless charging. If you have to take it off to plug in anything, you fail. A base Airport Extreme that charges everything in the house is another piece of magic needed. As I said in the previous post, Apple builds their stepping stones carefully, they already have wireless syncing and backup, low power bluetooth is here, perhaps low power wireless communication in the near future, now they need frictionless wireless/wifi charging and a breakthrough in battery tech.
Love to hear from you guys.
Sorry if any math is wrong.