Commentary: What To Expect At Next Thursday’s Rumored Apple Event

[UPDATE]: Images of a new MacBook with rumored “Magic Toolbar” (pictured below) have leaked, according to MacRumors.

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The rumors are swirling that Apple’s going to hold a special event in Cupertino, Calif. on Oct. 27 to reveal some new Macs — specifically MacBooks. What can Mac fans expect to see next Thursday? Let’s take a look at some of the more persistent rumors.

MacBook Pro
The most common rumors about the MacBook Pro line is that there will be two new models; one 13-inch and one 15-inch. Both of the devices might feature Intel’s Kaby Lake processor, which will provide a speed and efficiency boost over the previous Haswell architecture CPU. Some pundits think that Apple will use the last generation Skylake architecture chip, but I’m speculating that the reason Apple delayed the release of the new MacBook Pro until October was to take advantage of the newly-shipped Kaby Lake processors. Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong before, and the Skylake CPUs would still provide a speed boost and quad cores at a lower cost than the new Kaby Lake chips.

Processor speeds are likely to see a boost. The Kaby Lake Intel Core i7 7500U CPU runs at a 2.7 GHz clock rate, with a single core Turbo Boost clock rate of 3.5 GHz (slightly slower than the Turbo Boost clock rate of 3.7 GHz found on the fastest current MacBook Pro).

RAM requirements have been sneaking up lately, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the maximum onboard memory grow to 32GB — double the amount in the existing top-end MacBook Pro. Likewise, the built-in SSD storage will most likely start at a minimum of 256GB, with the top end storage doubling to 2TB.

Next, it’s very likely that the new MacBook Pro models will be even thinner than before, with the usual USB 3, Thunderbolt 2, and HDMI ports giving way to multiple USB Type-C ports. (For more on Type-C, check out this USB 101 article).

In keeping with Apple’s desire to do away with the old 3.5mm headphone jack, I’m also going to speculate that we’ll see it replaced with a Lightning port. Who knows? Maybe Apple will even throw in a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter like they did with the iPhone 7.

About the keyboard… There have been many rumors about an OLED “Control Strip” above the number keys on the new MacBook Pro keyboards. This will feature software-configurable keys that can change appearance based on what app is being used. It’s also quite likely that Touch ID will finally make an appearance on a Mac with the new MacBook Pro models, although the ability to unlock a Mac with an Apple Watch takes away the necessity for a Touch ID reader.

MacBook Air render by Martin Hajek

MacBook Air rendering by Martin Hajek

MacBook Air
The rumors swirling around the MacBook Air all point to the same conclusion — the 11-inch model, which is Apple’s least expensive laptop option, will be dropped from the line. The 13-inch model will remain.

As with the MacBook Pro, it’s highly likely that numerous ports will be removed in favor of USB Type-C ports. On the MacBook Air that means that we’ll probably see three USB Type-C ports replacing the two existing USB 3 and single Thunderbolt 2 ports. If Apple can remove the SDXC card reader (which was only in the 13-inch model) and replace the 3.5mm headphone jack with a Lightning port, it’s possible that the MacBook Air could slim down to less than its current 0.68-inch thickness.

No rumors seem to point to a Retina display in the 13-inch MacBook Air, but it seems odd that Apple would keep one device without a Retina display when they seem to be ubiquitous across the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro lines.

Processor-wise, it would make sense for the MacBook Air to get a speed and efficiency boost from the Intel Skylake processor line. RAM should also see a boost; the existing maximum for a MacBook Air is 8GB; I’d assume that 16GB would be the standard in the new model.

I’m also speculating that the 128GB base flash storage for the MacBook Air will remain, but that the top end will increase to 1TB.

New 5K Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
One area of speculation after Apple discontinued the Thunderbolt Display was that the company might consider a 4K “Retina display” of some sort to replace it. Let’s go beyond that — rumor has it that Apple has been working with LG on a standalone 5K monitor.

As many creative professionals have been moving away from Apple monitors, this would be a good way for Apple to not only gain back the high-end monitor market, but also be able to showcase the video capabilities of Thunderbolt 3.

p_featimac27iMac
If the iMac is refreshed — and the rumors have been scarce about the flagship desktop machine getting an update — I would expect that the changes would be similar to what we’re expecting with the rest of the line.

That means removing USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2 ports and replacing them with a line of USB Type-C ports. Who knows?

Since the existing late 2015 27-inch iMac already uses the Intel Skylake CPU, it might be bumped to the Kaby Lake processor if those CPUs are available in quantity.

While I don’t think Apple is going to be updating the iMac, if they do I’d like to see a total design change. Make it slimmer, like many of the UHDTVs that are available. Get rid of the screen bezel and the aluminum “chin” below the screen, and just make the entire face of the iMac one big edge-to-edge display.

Mac mini
The Mac mini has been neglected long enough. Apple needs to give it some love this time around. That’s unlikely, as no rumors have come out about any changes for this line.

What could Apple do? The existing model is still running an Intel Haswell CPU, so at least a bump to the Skylake architecture chip would be an improvement. Add in the same changes we’re anticipating for the other devices — USB Type-C ports, Thunderbolt 3, Lightning port — and you’d have a nicely refreshed device.

Mac Pro
MacPro6_1_200_MYOWCTalk about neglected Macs! The Mac Pro hasn’t been touched since late 2013. The top-of-the-line Mac Pro currently uses a 12-core Xeon E5 “Ivy Bridge-EP” processor.

If Apple does anything to this line — doubtful, since there are no rumors floating around — it should at least bump the processors in the Mac Pro to the Intel Broadwell-E (Desktop) Core i7 chips, which boast up to 10 cores and a 25 MB cache.

Toss in the USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a lot of Mac Pro users would be very happy.


That’s it for the speculation today. Do you have any Mac wishes you’d like to have fulfilled next Thursday? Tell us about them in the comments below.


LEAVE A COMMENT


  • Slimmer iMac? PLEASE, no! Go back to the old iMac design that you can work on yourself, where you can change memory, drive, and even have room for (GASP) another drive, or an optical drive, if you want it. I’m keeping my old 2010 iMac til it blows up because I want function over form. I agree with MickG: we need a sustainable iMac.




  • Won’t be buying any more Apple laptops until we see another 17″ screen. Been nursing my 2011 along for quite some time. 15-inchers are just too small for accounting work. Please, Apple, please don’t make me go to the dark side after all these years…




    • Bob, I wish I could offer you hope, but even Nate Silver sees a 0% chance that Apple would bring back the 17″ MBP. ;-)

      That being said, try plugging a 13″ or 15″ in to an external display with keyboard and mouse. You don’t have to buy the expensive Apple monitors to do this nicely and you’ll have far more real estate than a 17″ could do anyway.

      If you want to stay with the MacOS, this will likely be the only way you’ll get more than 15″ of space. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. :-\




  • It would be nice if Mac offered a 17″ Mac BookPro Model again with retina, My 2009 workhorse is almost ‘upgraded’ out, but I just don’t see myself going to a smaller display..




  • I know that Apple is determined to shove USB C down everybody’s throat, but institutional environments like Universities, Video Production houses, etc. will end up being very late to the party as they have made major investments into periphery items such as hard disks, readers, etc. Whole infrastructures will have to be “made over” to accommodate the new USB C standard and many third party USB C hubs and connectors will have to be budgeted for to make any kind of transition. Eventually, after about 2-3 years, Apple users will adjust to the new standard….. just in time for Apple to completely change it again. I’m sorry… I hate being herded into the stable against my will……




    • Roy, as Apple seems to be toying with Mac in Enterprise and University settings, it will be interesting to see if they change this “innovative” behavior or not. I very much agree with you. Apple has a documentable history of not caring very much for the end user’s woes in this regard, but if Enterprise clients complain loudly enough, will they offer some support? I’m not being rhetorical when I say, “I don’t know.”

      But I loathe “innovation” for the sake of innovation, or form over function. The super skinny, glued and soldered iMac and the trashcan MacPro are perfect examples of both of these directions in tech that I hope Apple will course correct on. I’m nervously hoping they don’t do something similar to their fantastic laptop line…

      Apple is now one of the biggest, baddest, wealthiest, most powerful companies in the world right now (and not just the Tech world) so it remains to be seen how much they will listen to the world they kind of “own” now.

      It’s funny how the iPhone has become both a blessing and a curse to Apple fans like us. It clearly saved the company and turned everything around, but I just hope it doesn’t completely bite off the Mac hand that fed it. :-\

      ….




  • 3 years and waiting for a decent Mac Pro upgrade. C’mon Apple!! Geez.




  • And bring a Mac tablet. iOS is a jailed limited toy.




  • Do not forget USB 3.1 GENERATION 2 (10 Gbps). And Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad with hub sporting two of such ports. As well as SDXC with extra pins supporting maximum read/write speed (300 MB/s).




  • Apple’s not going to do everything at once, I agree with some of this, but:

    MacBook Air: I see no reason for a MBA update, should be EOL, they’ll just keep making the current model(s) until they can get the MacBook price point down a bit. Maybe drop the 11″ and keep the 13″ the same but with a price drop for now.

    (Perhaps rumor mill is confusing thinner MBPs for MBAs).

    iMacs: not yet, the current models already have retina displays with P3 color (available), I don’t see iMacs getting updated before next Spring.

    Mac Mini: …hmmm…not sure, I think it will wait.

    I do think Apple is going to give us P3 color with any new retina screens (in new Macs), including (and especially) a new monitor. This is a big deal for photographers and videographers/cinematographers/movie editors.

    I’m not sure if a new monitor is ready yet. We may see a 4K HDR P3 monitor, if they decide to do a new 4K HDR ATV…they have to do something, they have no low price point in ATVs now that ATV3 is gone…a new ATV means lower price point for ATV4 (I think they’ll keep only a ATV4 32GB, and two new models), but, will this be b4 2017 or Q1/Q2 2017? …So, we may see two new monitors, a 4K and a 5K, perhaps 2 or more sizes…but, again, not sure when.

    It is time for Mac Pro update, but, are the processors they want in it ready? They do have to get the processors first as the machines are engineered around them. So, not sure, but, would like to see b4 end of this year.




    • The MBAir is a wonderful laptop for most people. I really hope Apple doesn’t dump it for the tacky, flexy, iPhone powered, rose colored MacBook. They’re just cr@p. We have never sold or recommended even one of them since they came out. Not one client has ever requested one. They should have called it “The MacBook One.” With its ONE port for charging and ALL wired data, The MB is not just dumbed down, it’s just dumb. Sell it to kids who don’t need it for anything other than a netbook, but don’t dump the lightweight line of MBAirs that are perfect for the prosumer.

      In our business, we found that women (because they’re often smarter) prefer the MBAirs to the heavier MBPro offerings because they are so light and portable and plenty fast for everything they do.

      Can the MBAirs still be improved? Absolutely.

      The option for 16GB of RAM should be there for people who accept there is no other way than to pay Apple’s luxury prices for the upgrade. Same for larger HD options. While local businesses are called to task for a 20-30% markup, Apple routinely marks these up by 500% and more. But paying for these “upgrades” would surely make up the difference in profit margins between it and the MBPro line. Apple, should they ever comment about not offering the upgrades beyond 8GB RAM and 500GB of HD space would probably say it’s about design, but we all know that’s not true. It’s about some profit matrix they remain loyal to and guiding us sheep into the proper corrals. Personally, I think they should keep the 11″ MBAir as is, but offer retina screens for the 13″ But these are not breathtaking or particularly innovative upgrades.

      You don’t need to innovate for the sake of innovation. Sometimes, as in the case of the MacPro, you’ve already got something pretty close to perfection that only needs speed and input improvements.

      Apple seems to care less and less about professionals who use their product. Somewhere, in some dark, redacted meeting, they must have decided that the numbers just aren’t there. The MacPro, with its super ugly, trash can design, surely has Steve Jobs cursing in the afterlife somewhere.

      We’re not ready for a new monitor yet? Whaaaaa?

      Apple doesn’t even SELL one right now! So yes, I would think they would be announcing a new display since they have discontinued the Thunderbolt Display in June and not replaced it with ANYTHING. Only Apple can see the logic in this approach. It’s like REI discontinuing camping gear in June because they want to release new stuff in the Fall. Tim Cook obviously didn’t find a good supply line person to take his place when he ascended to the heavens of CEO. :-\

      Who the heck knows what goes on inside the secret society of Apple? Who can explain how the seemly intentional ineptitude of the design of the latest AppleTV remote came about? It just seems like all Cupertino really care about is the 70% of all revenue that comes from its iPhone and building their magic spaceship campus and billion dollar Apple chapels (check out the 10 BILLION dollar Battersea project!) for the masses to worship at.

      This is not your father’s Apple.




  • oh so lets see over priced underpowered pcs in comparison ah oh yes with 1947 tech.. wasnt not too long ago that steve jobs said ..you can do more per cycle with the asymmetric design of the ppc then the arcane design of the x86.Well,, he was right..Then you bneat up of the superior design of the
    Amiga hahha YOU LOSE. as that is all a pc=mac is. AMIGA WINs also using the superior design of the ITanium ,and or the Alpha ,and or the SGI ,and or the
    PA-RISC…again AMIGA WINs




  • Seriously? “Make [the iMac] slimmer?!” Seriously?

    The skinny iMac is one of the dumbest things ever to hit the series making them virtually unrepairable things that end up in landfills. This is one case where Jonny Ive’s drool over aesthetics has seriously compromised function over form.

    I know you know that these beast are all glued and soldered together now, so I just can’t figure out why you would ask for a thinner iMac…. They’re already too thin, to jammed and glued together, they don’t breathe, RAM is completely inaccessible in the 21.5″ without a COMPLETE teardown and removal of the logic board!

    And you want a thinning iMac?…

    [sigh]

    How about Apple starts building for sustainable world and stops creating disposable machines that have a 3-4 year life cycle instead of the EIGHT YEAR life cycle they used to have when they were actually repairable and upgradeable?

    Designed obsolesce in the guise of beauty is still unacceptable for the world’s richest company selling the worlds most expensive PCs.

    You guys sell parts so I would have thought you’d get that. :-\




    • MickG I must agree with you on the repairable and upgradeable. I fear Snapple has gone completely into punitive mode for Mac owners and will not allow upgrades by soldering in the memory and SSD. Too bad. It would appear greed is just too hard for them to turn down.




      • I agree. I Have purchased 9 macs for myself and famly since 2000 but the form over function attitude that pervades Apple these days means that the Macs we have will be the last we purchase. Sad.