We’ve reached the end of the year, and just like last year that means it’s time for me to look ahead at what’s coming for us in 2023. These are my fearless predictions! Okay, maybe there’s a slight bit of fear. Don’t look directly into my eyes. I’m sensitive that way.
While this year’s Mac lineup was a little less than I expected–probably due to supply-chain issues–I suspect that’s going to result in a huge 2023 for the Mac. And on the iPad side, while I expect a quiet year, there’s still a wild card that might make a bit of noise.
The rise of the super Macs
Apple promised the end of the Apple silicon transition in two years, and that was two years ago, so… barring any surprise end-of-year Mac announcements, we’re going to have to assume that the final pieces of the Apple silicon puzzle will be a part of the company’s 2023 Mac slate.
This means that in 2023, the more advanced versions of the M2 processor the company introduced this summer will finally arrive. And while the M2 is definitely a small step forward from the already-impressive M1, I have the feeling that the forthcoming high-performance M2 variants will push the Mac into places it’s never been before.
Let’s start with the easy stuff: It had been rumored that Apple’s MacBook Pro and Mac mini updates were originally targeted for this fall, but they were apparently pushed off into the new year. What a great way to start 2023!
We’re talking 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros that will be largely unchanged on the outside from the redesigned 2021 models… but they’ll be powered by M2 Pro processors on the inside, pushing the Mac laptop line to new heights.
On the Mac mini side, it’s finally time to retire that Intel-based, space gray high-end Mac mini and replace it with a new model that uses the M2 Pro processor, bringing the Pro-tier chip to the desktop for the very first time. (I assume there will be both a plain M2 and M2 Pro variation, while the Mac Studio continues to chill with its M1 Max and M1 Ultra options… for now.)
Then things start to heat up. The Apple silicon Mac Pro! This is going to be the year. The real question is, what does a Mac Pro running Apple silicon look like? Based on reports and common sense, I’m going to predict that it’s a smaller version of the Intel Mac Pro design, complete with cheese-grater holes and big loopy handles, and on the inside, there will be options for high-speed storage and networking expansion as well as extra processing power. Whether Apple supports expansion standards or builds something new, I don’t know. I would bet the Mac Pro is more expandable than we fear but less traditionally expandable than the Mac Pros of the Intel era.
Based on reports from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, everyone expects the Mac Pro to be powered by an M2 Ultra chip. Think of it as a really, really big Mac Studio.
And what better pairing for the Mac Pro than a new Apple external display? After years of predicting one and being wrong, I finally got it right with the arrival of the Studio Display in 2022. But rumors abound that Apple’s working on an even pricier model with Micro-LED backlighting and ProMotion that will put the current Pro Display XDR to shame. 2023 is a good time to make it happen.
Old friends and new
If you think about how important laptops are to the Mac line, it’s actually surprising how few model variations Apple offers. There are three MacBook Pros, but only one MacBook Air–two if you count the M1-generation model still being sold for $999. That’s a bit odd for Apple’s single most popular Mac model, don’t you think?
If the rumors are true–and they’re really too logical to deny–we’ll see a second MacBook Air this year. Unfortunately, I don’t think my dreams of a smaller model than the 13-inch one will come true. Instead, it’ll be a larger model, 15 inches, allowing people to buy a bigger laptop with a nice big screen without shelling out for MacBook Pro performance that’s unnecessary for most users.
This brings us to Apple’s flagship desktop Mac, the iMac. The 24-inch M1 iMac was released with fanfare in 2021, but it’s now a bit long in the tooth. Time for an update, with a new processor and maybe even some new colors. But more exciting than a new iMac is the prospect of a new, larger model–let’s call it iMac Pro–with a similar design but a larger screen. The iMac Pro will also bring M2 Max and Ultra chip options to the iMac line for the first time.
That new iMac sounds great. If I hadn’t bought a Mac Studio and Studio Display this year, I’d want one myself. Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that it won’t be available in fun colors because that’s just not how Apple rolls for products with Pro in the name. You’ll get it in silver or space gray and if you’re very, very lucky, maybe Midnight. That’s it.
iPad: The quiet time
It sure feels like we’re in a lull for iPad hardware. Apple just revised the low-end iPad and the iPad Pro, and those are products that tend to only get updated every 18 months or so. The iPad Air is ready for an M2 speed bump, I suppose, but isn’t the M1 really a better fit for that product?
So is there going to be anything interesting in 2023 when it comes to the iPad? While I’m not entirely convinced this is going to happen, I’m going to take the plunge: There won’t be new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, but 2023 will be the year when Apple introduces the next-generation iPad Pro design language in the form of a mega 15-inch iPad Pro (or iPad Studio?) complete with new accessories to let it be an artist’s tool, work in a laptop configuration, or even dock with an external display. The smaller iPad Pro models will have to wait for 2024 to pick up features from big brother.
Now, what about the iPhone, wearables, and any brand-new product categories? What will 2023 bring for Apple in those areas? For the answers–and yes, we are treating my predictions as answers for the purposes of these columns–you’ll need to check back here next week.