We're an Apple shop here, which isn't a surprise when you consider one of us was an Apple Genius and another (guess who) had an Apple //c as his first Apple computer. Yup, I'm old. But as a long time Apple follower since the mid 1980s, I've come to love and speculate on Apple's future products as well as the next fan. Some interesting rumors over the weekend seemed to be in line with my personal expectations of where Apple is headed and I thought it would be fun to explore those here.
These are interesting times for Apple lovers. Of course 5 years from now we might be brooding over a single, unified OS. But in the immediate future (2-3 years) I think Apple's product line will look as circular as its new headquarters. The iPhone is and will continue to be Apple's flagship product -- both in sales and in mindshare. Although recent reports put 5c sales well below the 5s, I think in the long run, you're going to see the 5c be the big seller as prices drop and more people look for their next phone.
This leaves Apple with three main product lines: laptops, desktops and tablets. The rumor that got me most excited over the weekend is that Apple is working on a new 12" super thin laptop with a retina display and design that will be just as revolutionary as the original MacBook Air.
I think I see where they're going here. Apple's current laptop line is set for a collision of sorts in the near future between the Air and Pro lines. It's only a matter of time before the power and display of the Pro series fits into a "smaller than possible" form factor of the Air. When that happens, Apple will be offering ONE line of laptops in the company's true DNA of simplicity. This new 12" model should be able to replace both the 11" and 13" Airs and allow Apple to bring the laptop line in focus for consumers. Want to get a sneak peek of what Apple's future laptops will look like? Take a current MacBook Pro with retina display and look at it from the side. Imagine slicing off the bulges on both the top and bottom and ponder for a second how light and thin that laptop will be. And yes, go ahead and add the iPhone 5s edges to it if you'd like. Space grey laptops will be on the top of every mobile user's wish lists.
There's a muddled sort of product line right now in Apple's iOS based devices. We're still living with iPads, iPad minis and a weirdly dated iPod line. Plus, rumors over the last few months of an Apple 17w USB power adapter mean one thing… the iPad line is growing in more ways than one.
I expect to see a larger iPad at some point in the next 6-12 months. If I were Phil Schiller, I'd made the case for renaming the iPod touch as a 4" iPad. Or, move it to 5" to make it more "pad" like. This creates a unified lineup of four iPads reaching many different users and price ranges. Apple can probably always sell an iPod as a truly peripheral product but the questions remains of where the iPod line in general will finally bite the dust when the often rumored "iWatch" finally makes it's presence.
Lastly, the desktop lineup perhaps has the most mystery in store for its future. Once thought for dead, the Mac Pro is about to be available in a form I've been waiting for for a long, long time. I can't tell you how many Mac towers I've had over the last 15 years with nothing in their slots. The cube was the machine I wanted back in 2000, but not for the price. The new Pro (and the new black RETINA Thunderbolt displays that are sure to be unveiled along side it) is what a lot of designers have wanted for years. What happens next to the Pro though, is now more of a mystery than ever.
Weekend rumors included Apple working on a new, lower cost iMac.
I think it's clear Apple could benefit from the addition of a sub $1,000 desktop with screen to its offerings. The iMac becomes a product with an interesting future. The Mac mini and Apple TV have unique possibilities as well since they represent a bit of a merging of sorts, especially in a future that might see some sort of Apple television product develop. Personally, I would find it interesting to see the Apple TV of today become more of a "USB stick" type device that plugs into any modern TV's HDMI port giving you all the features and more that it has today. Many people expect some level of Bluetooth support for the coming game controllers that are now possible with the iOS 7 update.
Personally, I expect to see a future Mac mini that looks more like a sawed off Airport Base Station. But in black of course. Think about that for a second. Apple's desktop line could very quickly have a VERY unified appearance. Small, black towers that would seemingly connect to new, ultra thin retina displays.
I like where this is headed and am not worried at all about Apple's future. Even if it's not quite as circular as it looks to be.