There’s just something about Apple products that gets the tech crowd gossiping like little old ladies at a church social. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a product refresh. Sometimes it’s something revolutionary. Sometimes it’s a big disappointment. Sometimes, it’s just hype. Whatever the case, as soon as there’s a hint of something new coming from Apple, the rumblings begin.
Apple really doesn’t help the problem. They know that the eyes of the tech industry are on them, so they use it to their advantage. Rumors of DARPA-level security, vague press “invitations”, and the occasional “leaked” photos or specs just fuel the hype machine. Sometimes it’s something revolutionary; sometimes it’s a big disappointment.
This time around, there seem to be three major topics people are talking about.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen FireWire 400 eliminated from Macs completely, while the number of FireWire 800 ports have been reducing. This slow phasing out of the high-speed connection begs the question “What’s going to replace it?”
For the past year or so in the PC world, it’s all been about USB 3.0. Unfortunately, last year’s Macs were still sporting USB 2.0 ports, even as FireWire ports dwindled. Unfortunately, in real-world practice, USB 2.0 doesn’t even make it to FireWire 400 speeds much of the time, especially when transferring large amounts of data.
However, Apple has been rumored to be actively supporting a new connection, Light Peak, which will have extremely high bandwidth, be daisy-chainable and replace almost (if not all) existing ports on your Mac. Eventually, it will be an optical interface, using light to transmit data, but reports say that initial Light Peak implementations will still use copper wires.
As Apple has been a supporter of the technology from early on in the game, it’s pretty likely we’ll be seeing Light Peak replacing many peripheral connections on our Macs – possibly sooner than later.
New MacBook Pros
It’s about the time for the annual refresh of the MacBook Pro line. Interestingly, the projected announcement date isn’t on a Tuesday like it usually is, but on a Thursday—this Thursday to be exact—to coincide with the birthday of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. The exact specifications of these new MacBook Pros are, of course, are not yet available, but there have been a couple of rumors floating about that have some basis in reality.
The first is that these MacBook Pros will sport the new “Sandy Bridge” processors, which offers up to a 17% performance increase over the “Nehalem” processors at the same clock speed.
The second rumor stems from reports that the new MacBook Pro’s case is “slightly changed”. Could this be the addition of a Light Peak port? If it is, it would be copper-based, rather than optical, but it would be a huge step forward on the peripheral front and would indicate that we would likely see it on other Macs down the line. I would expect there to still be at least a couple of legacy ports left, but if this shows up on the MacBook Pro, expect Apple to make it quite clear that Light Peak is the future and ‘ya better stock up on the eventually-available adapters.
As far as peripherals go, nothing has taken off like the iPad has over the last year. You can’t look at any media outlet without running into a story somehow tied in to the iPad. Even OWC Radio isn’t immune to this – there seems to be at least one iPad-related story each episode.
So, as with the iPhone, iPods and most of Apple’s line of products, we look to the next annual update, which should be somewhere around April. However, there have been reports of production delays pushing this back to June.
While most of the proposed specs aren’t that surprising—lighter, thinner, front and rear cameras, a faster processor, better speakers—cases for the upcoming iPad 2 seem to have a “mystery port” on them. What could this port be? Some say it’s a connection so you can hook your TV up to your iPad, others say it’s some sort of SD or miniSD card slot, but any confirmation of what it actually is has not been forthcoming.
Dream a little dream.
Though it can grow a little tiresome, I think the rumor mill surrounding Apple is actually a good thing. It gives us the chance to both guess at what Jobs & Company will do next, but it also gives us a chance to dream a little. Light Peak on a Mac mini? 4.5GHz “Sandy Bridge”-based MacBook Pros? It’s all possible. Whether it is fact, however, only Apple knows.
In the meantime, I’m off to go get a Light Peak cable to hook the new MacBook Pro to the iPad 2….