New year, pre CES and Macworld, rumors of an "Apple Event" in January mean it's time for Predictions! Everywhere you turn Apple pundits and analysts are throwing their hat in the ring and telling us what we can expect to see from Apple in 2012. Some of the rumors are way out there, some seem to be on point. So I figured I'd join the fray and jot down some thoughts on what I think we can expect from the company for the year to come. My guess is 12 months from now we'll all look back on this and have a big laugh... iPhone: We can expect the iPhone will be upgraded to the much-anticipated iPhone 5 in the Fall of 2012. The new iPhone 5 will bring a re-designed form factor, true 4G data connection and overall improvements to Siri, speed and battery life. I’m not confident the iPhone 5 will be a quad core device, but it’s a very strong possibility if the chips are available that won’t eat too much battery life.
iPad: The iPad 3 will be released in the spring of 2012 and no surprise will bring improved cameras, a higher resolution display and perhaps a jump to a quad-core processor. If the iPad three goes quad-core I think it’s all but certain the iPhone 5 will follow. Contrary to current rumors, do not think we will see the release of an iPad 3 and the release of an iPad 4 in the same year. I believe Apple will stick to a once a year, or possibly even extended release cycles in the future for the iPad. The iPad 3 will gain Siri support along with 4G networking capabilities. I see a low-end iPad 2 remaining at a lower price point to try to recoup some of the market that may be interested in devices like the Kindle Fire. An 8GB version of the iPad 2 may make sense now, especially given Apple’s growing dependence on Cloud storage. I very rarely come close to filling my 16GB iPad to capacity.
iPods: I anticipate fairly minimal changes again to the iPod line this year with the possible exception of the iPod Touch. We may see the re-introduction of a camera into the iPod Nano, but no Wi-Fi given the small form factor. I think this will be the year the iPod touch will finally get bumped to 64GB and the Classic iPod will disappear, especially given the emphasis on the Cloud and a $25 subscription to iTunes Match. The iPod Touch will likely see improvements to the screen and camera this year and I will even go out on a limb and say this may be the year we see the option for a an a la carte 3G data plan (similar to the plans offered on the iPad) for the iPod Touch. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if the iPod touch kept with a slower processor and data capabilities to keep overall cost down.
Macs: This will be an evolutionary year for Macs. We will continue to see the development of the Thunderbolt. There will be the obligatory upgrades across the Mac line with faster processors, graphics cards and a push towards SSDs. I would hope to see Apple make the move to USB 3.0 this year. The major change to the Mac line will be that the 15” MacBook Pro will take on the Air form factor but the 17” will remain for those who refuse to give up the additional peripheral support. The Mac Pro will see a major update in specifications, but I’m afraid it will likely be the last. We may continue to see some increases in overall screen resolution, but I doubt we’ll see any true “retina display” yet in the Mac line due to cost.
Software: I expect we’ll see updated iLife and iWork suites fairly early in 2012 with more emphasis on Cloud support and sharing. I do not expect an OS upgrade or even a preview in 2012. There will be a new version of iOS previewed and released later this year with continued emphasis on Siri and the cloud. I also expect to see across the line upgrades to Apple’s professional program similar to the changes made to Final Cut in 2011. I expect FaceTime will gain multi-party support and hopefully be updated to incorporate iMessages, IM and video rather than having separate applications across multiple devices. Apple will continue to push their respective App Stores as the distribution point for software.
TV So far I think my predictions for 2012 have been fairly realistic. The mythical “Apple TV” is an area where I have the most skepticism and concern. I do think that Apple is planning on making its next major move into the area of video entertainment; I’m just not sure whether the time is right to do so in 2012. I also very concerned that this is the area where if not handled correctly, Apple could have its first major flop in many years.
While I think Apple will release an upgraded Apple TV, I’m not convinced that Apple wants its product in this market to be a $1000+ ultra high-end television. While I have no doubts that Apple could produce one heck of a television in terms of quality and experience, how many consumers would spend that kind of money on an all-in-one TV that Apple updates every couple of years with new features when we live in a world of $49 Roku boxes? Everyone I know already has a newish HD television in their living room with no plans to upgrade in the near future.
I think the better move here is to stick with a sub-$200 box, preferably a sub $100 box that will work with all modern TVs currently on the market today and has all the functionality of a truly next-generation Apple TV packed inside. This does put Apple in a bit of a catch-22 here because everyone expecting a “true Apple TV” so anything less may be seen as a disappointment. For those ultra-high end consumers perhaps sell a separate display that incorporates with the next generation Apple TV for the ultimate Apple living room experience.
I had an opportunity to share these predictions along with Ken Ray of Mac OSKen and Victor Agreda, Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Episode 133 of the MacTech Live Podcast. You can find a direct link to the show here.