What should we expect from Apple in 2023? Well, based on recent reports, it’s going to be all about Apple’s venture in AR, VR, a headset, and an operating system to make it all work. The future is near, and we talk about it on this episode of the Macworld Podcast!
Transcript for episode 823: 2023 is the year of Apple Reality
RL: What should we expect from Apple in 2023? Well, based on recent reports, it’s gonna be all about Apple’s venture in AR, VR, a headset, and an operating system to make it all work. The future is near and we’re talking about it all on this episode of the Macworld Podcast.
Welcome to the Macworld Podcast. I’m Roman Loyola [RL] here with Jason Cross [JC].
JC: Good morning.
RL: And Michael Simon [MS].
MS: Hello, sir. I’m glad we’re back to our usual introduction.
RL: Actually, I have the new intro written here and I went into muscle reflex and started reciting the old intro.
MS: So—I’m all for it.
RL: That’s why if you listen to the intro, I, like, stuttered a little bit because I went…I’m actually not reading what I…what I wrote.
JC: I’ve been there.
RL: We’ve had a couple of reports recently about Apple’s Mixed Reality headset. On Monday, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple has allocated a ton of resources towards the headset in order to make it happen this year. And last week, the website The Information detailed several technical details about the headset. So it looks like it’s going to happen this year. Are you guys excited about our new AR/VR reality that’s coming up?
JC: I kind of am.
MS: I don’t know if excited is the right word. All right, I’ll let Jason be positive first.
JC: I kind of am in the sense that I think it’s going to be a step change improvement over your Oculus Quests and stuff like that, especially as it relates to AR. The specs are kind of crazy. I can’t imagine how expensive it’s going to be. We’ve heard rumors of $3,000, but then again, everyone thought the iPad was going to cost $1,000, and then it came out at $500. Not that $1,500 would be cheap–that would be real expensive. That would be more than the new premium headsets from Meta and everybody.
I think they’re doing some unique and interesting things. I think we might be in the same place we were before the iPhone was released when the pundits were looking at existing smartphones and saying, what could possibly be added? What is Apple going to bring to the table? How could it be better? I think there’s a lot of usability stuff, a lot of design stuff, a lot of–and Apple has the scale, now that they’ve never had before. So much of what is limiting AR and VR in the world right now is just this limiting factor of all the developers in the world aren’t going to jump on board, because they can’t reach several hundred million customers. So the only investment you get is companies like Meta building their own thing and spending all the money in the world, and trying to pay developers to make games and stuff, giving them sweet deals and stuff. But they’re not investing really hard. Or guys like Sony who are doing the same thing. They’re trying to push a platform, they’re going to do VR, they’re going to spend a whole lot of money on a handful of games.
But you’re not going to get the same situation you get with the iPhone where you just get everything from hobbyist developers who come up with something really neat that changes everything for everybody, to really big mega corporations spending billions of dollars, and everything in-between because the scale’s not there. Nobody’s got a thing that reaches 50 million people or 100 million or iPhones now reach a billion. Apple on the strength of brand alone can kind of get there. It might take a generation or two. Prices have to come down and all this other stuff. But I think I’m cautiously optimistic.
RL: Part of me wants to think, well, how can it be any better than a Meta headset or something like that?
RL: But you have to step back and think this might be something totally different, that we’re just not able to conceive of, I guess. Or don’t have the ability to conceive of it, I guess.
MS: That’s kind of where my pessimism comes in, I think, because–all right, so we were talking about iPhone. When the iPhone came out, I mean, everyone knew what a mobile phone was. And a lot of people had them and there were varying degrees of usability and had, you know, different features and whatever else. But Apple kind of set the standard there and said, okay, so this is the phone that we should be using. Same thing with the Apple Watch, same thing with maybe a MacBook or something like that. They take something that we’re familiar with and they make it better.
This headset that we’ve been hearing about for a long time, based on the rumors, based on what we know, it is not at all like anything that we’ve seen. And Apple has–so there’s two hurdles here. One is obviously the cost and selling it and making it something that people want. But it’s also convincing people that this is something that they’re going to want to wear all the time. It’s not like a Meta Quest where you pop in on, oh, look, I got this new game or I want to be Iron Man for a couple of minutes or it’s a baseball thing or whatever it is. This is, based on what we read, this is like it’s a wearable device like AirPods or an Apple Watch that’s meant to be used in public and that’s the disconnect.
JC: Yeah. I think from what the leaked specs that we have heard so far are, I don’t think this first product is meant to be that. Number one, it doesn’t have the battery life. Number two, they’re doing AR not in glasses. It’s a headset. It’s a pair of ski goggles you wear that has stuff like that. I think initially it’s going to be meant for you to use it in hour-long, dedicated hour-long bursts of doing something specific with it and then taking it off. This is the stepping stone to future products that are, like you said, like I wear it around town all day and stuff like that.
The rumor is they’re focusing a lot on sort of telecommunication with it, which is a good example. You’d put it on to have a virtual FaceTime call where you’re not looking at a video screen, you’re looking at essentially a hologram of the other person standing in your living room and you’re standing in theirs, right? And they’re doing what you’re doing, and it looks like you, and it moves like you.
MS: Presumably, they would need a headset as well for that to work.
JC: They might even make it work with FaceTime where it’s like, if they had a phone, they would see your avatar moving, but it’s just on a screen, and you would just see a video of them with your headset on. They could do things, but the real experience would be AR to AR.
But maybe we should–because we can’t assume everybody’s up on it–maybe we should quickly run down some of these specs. It’s expected to look kind of like a pair of ski goggles.
MS: Ski goggles. That’s the thing that everyone keeps saying. There’s a couple of renders out there that look like big ski goggles.
JC: So think of it like a MetaQuest 2 but maybe a little thinner, right? Or the MetaQuest Pro but maybe a little thinner. It should be, they say, between 300-400 grams, so a good third lighter than those things, especially more than that for the MetaQuest Pro because it has that big battery in the back but made out of stuff like aluminum and titanium and mesh knit and stuff to keep the weight down.
MS: Yeah, it’s kind of like AirPod Max-ish based on what we read. It looks similar to that type of combination of materials.
JC: Although it should be mentioned: I think this is lighter than AirPod Max. And things like speakers integrated into the fabric, which the MetaQuest Pro does for the ears. Then if you want to use headphones–and that’s required to make 3D audio work as you turn your head quickly. It’s not like playing a video with surround sound where if you’re 100 milliseconds off, it works. It has to be super, super low latency to work.
MS: It should be noted if that’s true, the only AirPods model right now is the AirPods Pro 2. That’s it. The AirPods 3 have an H1.
JC: For inside, they would have the Sony-made micro OLED 4K display on each eye. You will see reports saying, “for a total of an 8K display”–that is not how 8K works. 8K is four 4K displays. It’s too wide and too tall. Half an 8K display, people–shame on you. But still, that is much higher resolution and likely better color reproduction and dynamic range and stuff than most headset displays out there.
And then this is totally unique: on the outside, they’ll have a large outward-facing OLED display that works like the Apple Watch or the always-on display of the iPhone or something where really, really low refresh rate, really, really low power use that’s just meant to every second or so, it’s meant to show what your face is looking like to the outside world so that when other people are talking to you while you’re wearing this stupid headset, they don’t feel totally disconnected from you.
MS: They’ll see your eyes blinking and moving and expressions.
JC: Or even a representation of them, if not an actual video feed of your eyes, but something, and then it won’t be weird. You’re not looking at somebody who’s like, are you looking at me? I can’t tell. Did you hear me? That to me, that’s the smallest thing, but that to me is one of those things that convinces me that Apple has done work on how to make this thing usable, that I think other people haven’t because that’s a very real issue that’s very human and not technical. It has a very technical and expensive solution, but that’s one of those things that’s like, they thought about, people doing this, and that’s cool.
Then on the inside, they’ll have several sensors inside to look at things like your eyes and do eye tracking. They can do things like foveated rendering, which is basically they draw the part of the screen you’re looking at very detailed and the rest of it not very detailed because your peripheral vision has terrible resolution. Just makes things run faster and look, it lets you render high resolution without the penalty.
And then also do things like have your avatar, or the front screen and stuff show where your eyes are looking and blinking and facial expressions for what you–there’s some cool AI out there that will look at things like the areas around your eyes to determine are you smiling, frowning, stuff like that. And then on the outside, they say 12–you’ve seen 12 cameras, you’ve seen 12 cameras and sensors and stuff like that. I don’t think there’s going to be 12 cameras. I think they’re counting other sensors as well. Multiple cameras on the outside.
And then both short-distance and long-distance LiDAR to do mapping of your environment, which you need to do for real AR. And then, of course, things like accelerometers and all that other nonsense.
And then inside, an M1 and a second chip that is a dedicated custom image signal processor with a custom super low latency connection to the M1, because one of the problems they all need to do to do AR well is take the video feed from all those cameras, stitch it together properly into a stereoscopic video stream, and then send that through to the processor and ultimately to the displays in incredibly low latency, like super, super low. You can’t have any lag or you’ll start to feel sick. The frame rate needs to be really, really, really high, 90Hz or something like that.
That’s a lot. But it also means they’re doing AR differently than the Magic Leap or the HoloLens. Those are things where they had, you look through a clear lens at the world, at the real world, and that clear lens has an integrated display, transparent integrated display, and that’s what they draw over the real world with. This is going to be like a VR headset, it’s opaque, and when you are doing AR to see the real world, you’re going to see a real-time stereoscopic video feed of the real world around you. And that has to be much higher quality. There’s some headsets that do that now, like the new Oculus and stuff. It’s a bad experience. It’s basically just there so that you can check your surroundings, make sure you’re not hitting anything. When you go to VR mode, the Apple’s going to have to be a whole order of magnitude better than everybody else at that for this to be real augmented reality.
It will get its battery from a battery pack you’d wear on your waist or pocket or something with a cord attached with like MagSafe. Probably a smart idea just considering how much power this thing needs to use. If you were to put the battery on the headset, it’d be heavy and shorter battery life and all that stuff. They’re going to have to get beyond that eventually for this, probably smart.
And then a digital crown-type thing on the side of the headset that lets you switch between AR and VR. 120-degree field of view, that’s way better than any of the dedicated augmented reality products like the HoloLens–that thing has a terrible field of view–and Magic Leap. That’s as good as the best VR headsets for VR.
And for control, not dedicated controllers like you see, they’re going with hand tracking. So you’ll go much like HoloLens, you’ll be doing gestures in the air to do OS-level commands and stuff, and just grabbing virtual objects with your hand and stuff. But they apparently have enough cameras and enough intelligence to do things like body tracking the rest of your body, even leg tracking, which is a pretty advanced thing. Nobody else is really doing that. They’re doing some leg simulation just based on if your body moves through the environment like this, your legs will just fake how your legs would move, which is not the same as tracking your actual leg movement.
MS: Facebook doesn’t even have legs.
JC: Yeah, in their avatars. There are games that do.
RL: Previous reports had said that this headset relies on an iPhone for processing and other things. Now, did The Information note that?
MS: We also heard that it would have an M processor. That’s an earlier rumor, so maybe both. I think it almost certainly has to have an iPhone involved in some way, at least at the start.
JC It will probably have to be set up with an iPhone, kind of, like the way you would set up an Apple TV or a HomePod. The latest rumors say that it’s going to have its own integrated processing. Whether that’s in the belt pack thing or in the headset itself or something, I don’t know, but it would have its own M1 and custom ISP. They can’t really solve the problem of the latency problem of sending raw data to your iPhone to be processed and then back to the headset and then what it needs to send to the displays all in like three milliseconds.
In AR and VR, they have what’s called motion-to-photon latency. That’s basically, how much time does it take from the input of your head turning or moving through the environment, the accelerometers to detect that, give that motion, redraw the screen properly for the new direction it’s supposed to be facing or something, then send it back to the display and the display to make photons that hit your eyeballs. All that has to happen in a very, very short amount of time, or no matter how high the frame rate is, you feel sick. It could be 120 frames per second, whatever, but if there’s a delay, even a tiny fraction of a second delay, if you feel disconnected from it, you start to get sick. Things don’t feel grounded. It doesn’t work. To get that sense of presence, you have to have really low motion of photon latency. My guess is that they’re going to have to have local processing with an actual cable connected, whether it’s in the headset or it’s in the belt pack to keep that down really low.
MS: All of that, which is, that’s a lot. No one’s gonna care. Regular people aren’t gonna give a crap about any of that stuff. What they’re going to care about is they put it on and it works.
JC: It’s got to be magic. You have to have that wow moment where you put it on and you go, wow. And then further…the thing that the iPhone got right was not just that. The specs didn’t really leak out about the iPhone ahead of time.
MS: No, really not. There wasn’t much about the iPhone at all. It was kind of a surprise that it even came at that event.
JC: There were rumors they were working on it.
MS: But it wasn’t like this, where if Apple has a spring event and they say something, I don’t know, some clever catchphrase, we’re going to know what’s the AR headset. We did not know that Macworld 07 was going to be the iPhone introduction, not for sure.
JC: Yeah. Same thing with the Apple Watch. We knew they were working on a watch. We didn’t know what or when necessarily.
MS: Yeah. It was pretty quiet specs and rumors and leaks and stuff.
JC: Apple’s so big now, they can’t keep things that secret. If the same information was out about the iPhone before it was introduced, if we had this level of specs, you would be like, it sounds like a really badly underpowered smart–like, it sounds like my mobile PDA, but less powerful. You would not understand that the magic is in, what does it look like? How is it designed? What does it feel like to use? What are the apps like? The whole thing was in the usability of it. There were some killer apps. There were some things we had had before that they just did completely better and differently on the iPhone. They completely–
MS: Yeah. I mean, Maps was the big one.
JC: Maps was a huge one. It was awesome.
MS: Even just the web browser was like, wow, it’s like a real web browser in my hand.
JC: And the third was the phone. We don’t think about it now, but–
MS: Visual voicemail and things like that.
JC: Yeah. Absolutely.
MS: Tapping links to make calls in Google.
JC: Completely game-changing. That’s what they’re going to have to do and that’s what we don’t know about. We know that the rumors are that they’re focusing a lot on what people have said, like a new age Zoom using Animojis and VR FaceTime and stuff like that to have like virtual communications.
MS: I don’t think Animojis, I mean, Animojis would be fine. I think it needs to be like, I need to put this thing on, make a call and I’m looking at, like, the person.
JC: Well, no, they’re expected to have super high-quality avatars of you. Maybe it’s not an actual video of you, maybe it’s a representation, but like these really high-quality avatars of you.
MS: But not like a talking unicorn or something.
JC: Yeah, that would be just like in FaceTime, you can do that.
JC: Yeah, I think that’s the idea.
MS: Which is fun, but it’s not whatever. It’s not a game-changer.
JC: But that’s exactly the kind of thing where we don’t know what that’s really going to be like. Just like if somebody before the iPhone told us, it’s going to have really great maps, you’d be like, well, so what? And then it comes out, and you’re like, oh, no, no, this is really amazing. This is really great maps and I need this. So it’s gonna have to have that kind of thing where there are, whether it’s productivity apps or communication or whatever, that if you just hear, well, they’re making this really great communications app, you’re gonna go, uh, and then when you see it and you use it, you’re gonna have to go, I need this in my life. And they have to reach that level on something.I don’t know if they can.
It should be mentioned the latest thing does say that it will run iPhone apps in a virtual window. So that’s cool. That’s a big deal and maybe that’s part of how it works with your iPhone. It runs your iPhone in a virtual window.
MS: I mean, speaking of the iPhone, the latest report says that Apple is kind of sprinting to the finish line here. So they’re taking resources from iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS 14, those teams bringing it over to the AR, which is rumored to be called xrOS, which stands for Extended Reality. Mark Gurman reported that, those operating systems, iOS 17, macOS 14, might not be as feature-filled as they would be, because this is an all-out effort to make this the product.
JC: I feel just like the Apple Watch where it took them a year or two to course-correct and figure out, and it might take the same sort of thing after there’ll be a development kit, there’ll be an app store, developers will make stuff. They’ll figure out what’s really popular, what people really love, what they do with it a lot, and they’ll either change the feature or get rid of the things that people don’t care so much about and really focus on the things that they do. But this is like a whole other pillar for Apple.
MS: And the Apple Watch was 350 bucks.
JC: You can get a $10,000 one if you wanted to.
MS: Yeah, you can get a $10,000 one if you want to do it. This thing might start at $10,000 based on everything that you just described. I mean, who knows?
JC: They’re almost worrisome because it’s too far beyond what everybody else has to the point where it’s like, is Apple going to be willing to make a lower profit margin than they normally make in order to make this a popular platform? I don’t know. Or is it just going to be super expensive and they’ll sell a million of them and then in year three, when they come out with a second version, it’s way more affordable?
RL Well, my worry is then, is that Apple puts it out, and then they try to go back to business as usual where teams work on their respective projects as before. And then there’s somewhat a sense of neglect with the platform.
JC: Oh, you mean it gets Siri’d?
RL: It gets Siri’d, it gets HomePod’d, or whatever you want to call it. Yeah. That’s what I get worried about. I’m a little worried about that too.
JC: Yeah. I don’t think either of those were considered within the company to be like the next major pillar the way that this is, but it could very well be like the iPad or something. It gets updates every year. Once they kind of get it to where it needs to be, it gets updates and…the iPad kind of languished for a while. We were stuck with that, what is now the ninth gen iPad. We were stuck with that design for too long. Then again, on the other hand, there are, I don’t know what the install base of iPads is, but it’s a lot and it’s the only game in town essentially for tablets. There are other tablets out there, but they’re not iPad.
MS: I mean, you know, at the time, there was nothing like the iPad, not even close. The iPad is kind of a victim of its own success. It sold so well because everyone was expecting a thousand-dollar tablet. And it was 500 bucks, which was, you know, somewhat of an impulse buy. And it sold, I don’t know, 10 million in that first quarter. I think it was a lot.
JC: But it was a lot. It was more than they were expecting.
MS: Yeah, way more. I think Apple kind of put the brakes on the development because like, all right, well, people like it like this, so let’s just refine it rather than evolve it. Then by the time, I think it took five generations for them to really change. Honestly, it’s still kind of the same because it really changed that much. If you take the ninth-gen iPad versus the first-gen iPad, they’re pretty similar.
JC: Yeah, there’s just been processor and display updates but–
MS: Some slight stuff here. The iPad concept is essentially the same thing. With the AR headset, I don’t know, it seems to be really hard when the iPhone arrived in 07, even the iPad in 2010, there were expectations but not like this. No one was looking for the iPhone to change everything.
JC: Yeah, it was not–Apple was not a $2 trillion company.
MS: What are you going to do? Right.
JC: Yeah. After several products that have become the world standard for their things, you’ve got your iPhone, you’ve got your iPad, you’ve got your AirPods, you’ve got your Apple Watch. In every case, they are far and away the leaders in their category. You can argue about whether they’re the best, but they are far and away the most popular, the standard bearers, et cetera. Everyone’s looking for this to be the next thing Apple does like that. I honestly think it will be, maybe not to the degree–the hype is going to get out of control. Especially if they give us some teasing and hints and don’t give us a release date and price, they just say it’s coming later this year. We’re going to get all kinds of wild imaginings about what it’s capable of that could never possibly live up to.
MS: Yeah. Because it’s Apple, this is the kind of thing that’ll be on the local news. Like, oh, when Apple came out with a headset today, and it’s gonna like the reports will be like half baked and they won’t actually, you know, get it right what it does, you know. And there’s gonna be a lot of misinformation out there. It’s gonna be expensive. No matter how you slice it, it’s gonna be at least a thousand dollars. At least. It’s gotta be. Gotta be. It’s you know, people are gonna say, well, what do I need that for? Now, it’s just it’s gonna be hard to figure out how this category reaches the level of even–like forget the iPhone, but even like AirPods or Apple Watch, which is, you know, big, but not tremendously big like the iPhone is. It’s a long tail that they are looking at
JC: Yes, they’re looking at this is a long-view thing. I don’t know that it ever needs to drop below $1,000. I think it can be like the MacBook for them where they have a very healthy business selling millions a year at that price. They just have to justify that price.
MS: Especially if it’s the kind of device you buy once and maybe five years later, you buy another one. If it’s not something you have, like an iPhone, people buy, and that’s a thousand dollars. And people buy that every year, every two years.
JC: But it’s that useful. To people, that is their digital lifeline. The amount that somebody uses an iPhone, they’re willing to justify spending that kind of money every year or two. And as long as they can reach that thing, as long as they can get that thing where it’s like, yeah, do people use this every single day and love it, then they’re going to be fine.
MS: Well, if it reaches the point where it’s something that you put on, like an Apple Watch, in the morning and go about your day, and maybe there’s prescription glasses built into it or whatever it is that has to be done to make it smaller and more stylish over the next five years or eight years. Sure, I mean I think that’s something that people–oh look when there’s a new style..the AR or whatever it’s called, Reality One Edition and now it’s in orange and now it’s made of this and now it’s made of that. Sure, I can see that. I mean, people who wear eyeglasses have several different pairs and they’re not cheap. They’re a few hundred dollars, easy.
JC: Speaking of prescription glasses, one of the things this is said to have is snap-in magnetic prescription lenses if you need them. That means they’re custom and that means they’re going to be expensive and it’s going to be stupid.
MS: That’s another $500.
JC: It’s not going to be that in this first edition or even the second or third one. It’s going to take time to get there. But it can be a thing that the people who buy it, love it, can’t stop talking about it, use it every day. Even if it’s not something you put on to wear every day, if I put it on several times a day and use it for a little bit, and then take it off and I love my experience…there’s absolutely people who are fully going to spend the money and get that.
The first one is probably not going to be the kind of thing that you’re meant to wear all day or walk around with really, outside of your house or whatever.
RL: There’s always that one person who will do it.
MS: Yeah. I mean, you see people on subways wearing like, you know, Oculus and playing games.
RL: Yeah. since I live in San Francisco, you know somebody’s already planning on figuring out how to walk through downtown with it on.
Since we were talking about expectations, we had high expectations for the Mac Pro and we were looking forward–
MS: How long is this podcast, Roman?
RL: We had high hopes for the Mac Pro and then Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg kind of said, yeah. Those high hopes you had? Sorry. It’s not going to happen the way we’re hoping it was going to happen.
Basically, what it sounds like is, first, we’re not going to get the processor that we thought we were going to get, which I think we were expecting. I think we all were bracing for that in the first place.
JC: Yeah. The rumors originally were that there was going to be an extreme version, that was basically like double what the Ultra is. So M1 Extreme would be double as many cores of everything and all that other stuff. And we’re not going to get that. It’ll just have the Ultra. I guess it’d be an M2 Ultra. It’d be weird if they did it with an M1 Ultra at this point, but yeah.
MS: Yeah, it’s got to be an M2. I mean, it’s got to be at least a little better than the Mac Studio.
JC: Yeah, there’s no M1 Ultra out, but the idea would be this would be an M2. There’s no M2 Pro or Max or Ultras yet, but it would debut in this product.
MS: Yeah, and those are rumored to be coming, and the, MacBook Pro is getting an update that would be an M2 Pro Max. The Mac mini is due for an update that would be an M2, presumably a Pro. So yeah, they’re coming in the first half or whatever of this year.
JC: Presumably, when the Macs and Ultras get released, the Mac Studios will get an update. That’s just that. It’s just the Macs and Ultra chips, the M2 versions.
Yeah, so it’s basically going to just be in the same enclosure the current Mac Pro is, except it’s going to have the M2 Ultra. But it will still have some PCIe slots for things like graphics and networking cards and other stuff you might need.
MS: Yeah. Basically, everything but RAM, according to the report.
JC: Yeah. It’s nice that you’re going to be able to update the storage. That was one that I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to do. We talked about it last week, I think, but there’s no way that they can–I really don’t think they could have ever really made the RAM upgradeable and keep, all the benefits of their whole system-on-chip architecture.
MS: That was the big question we had. Gurman’s last report did say that memory would be user upgradable. I was like, well, how is that going to happen when it’s unified memory and it’s a totally different architecture and it’s on the chip? How are they going to make that work?
JC: Yeah, it’s on a package. From an expandability standpoint, the latest rumor is better than I was fearing. I was fearing you weren’t going to get much of anything. The idea that you can slap in a graphics card to do some really high-end machine-learning stuff.
MS: So here’s a question for you as a PC person who knows this stuff. So the M2 Ultra has a 100 and whatever core GPU. If you put a graphics card in, does it add to it? How does that work?
JC: I think it would work exactly the same way that when you plug in–they already have this. You can plug, not on Apple Silicon, but in the Intel Macs, you had your integrated graphics and you could plug in with Thunderbolt, you could plug in an external graphics card in an external enclosure, and then it just uses that.
MS: So it shuts off the GPU portion of the actual chip.
JC: Yeah, it doesn’t use that for anything, maybe video encoding or something, but the actual drawing of the screen all comes from the graphics card and you can switch that off, but it’s only ever doing one or the other. I think that’s going to be probably the way it works with the exception of, like, you can do graphics work on the graphics card you’re doing, you have in, but maybe you have to do some compute work and that could be done on the internal, if they’re completely different tasks or something. It’s possible to do stuff like that. They’ve done that in the PC space where you can put in multiple GPUs in the same computer. I think what it’s intended to be is for that market, it’s going to be for people who have to do really high-end CAD or other stuff like that where they need a GPU with like an insane amount of RAM. They want a GPU that has a ray-tracing acceleration hardware, much faster RAM, and its own bank of RAM and stuff. There are people who work in broadcasting, they have special GPUs that connect to a whole bunch of monitors or connect to video equipment and stuff like that. It’s for people who want to do that kind of stuff that you’d stick that in there. If all you’re doing is video editing and stuff, you would just use their integrated GPU because you don’t need to render super-fast 3D graphics for that. You need video encoding. It’s all about the video encoders at that point. The M2 Ultra is probably going to have, like, what is it, three or how many does the M1 Ultra have? Three video encoders or something, like something crazy, you know, and it’s probably just going to be like that but better.
RL: Yeah, so we’re not going to get a new tower design, which means if you invested $600 in the wheels or is it $400?
MS: It’s $700.
JC: Wasn’t it?
MS: Six or seven, yeah.
JC: Yeah, I thought it was $150 a wheel basically or something.
RL: That’s what I thought.
JC: Something bonkers.
MS: They’re $699.
JC: Good lord. Okay.
RL: So if you invested in those wheels, they’ll probably still be good for this new Mac Pro. Although they’ll probably come out with new wheels that are twice the price and have spinners or something like that.
JC: Those little spikes like from 50s cars and stuff. That’s what I want.
RL: So it’s not going to get a new design, which I was a little disappointed about that. I mean the tower design does work. I was just kind of hoping for something new.
MS: Yeah, especially since the Mac Pro is the kind of thing that lasts for, I mean they keep that around for three, four, five, six years. They don’t change that every year like the iMac or something. Again, it’s not something that we would buy no matter what it is. But it seems a little disappointing.
With the launch of the Mac Studio last year. I wrote about this today, like, what’s the point of the Mac Pro? Like, okay, as Jason was saying, you got the internal graphics card.
JC: Extra networking cards, whatever PCIe thing you need.
MS: Apple’s been pushing Thunderbolt forever. It calls the Mac Studio modular because it has a bunch of Thunderbolt ports. So, like it just…it seemed like the Mac Pro is not really the ultimate pro machine anymore.
JC: Yeah, without a different CPU, what’s the point? And the point, I guess the nice thing is the point is expandability. With the exception of RAM, it’s still the expandable one. It’s still the one that lets you have custom audio interfaces that require PCI card slots and stuff like that. I guess that’s the point. But really, with the introduction of the Mac Studio, and I think we said this back when was introduced., when they introduced the Mac Studio, we thought, well, who needs a Mac Pro? Half the customers in the Mac Pro would be much happier with this.
MS: It’s smaller, it’s cheaper.
JC: It’s vastly cheaper, it’s smaller. And I think that’s still true and I think Apple’s happy to have that. I think they’re happy to say like, no, buy a Mac Studio.
RL: What I was kind of hoping for with the Mac Pro is that Apple would just go all out.
MS: Yeah, I think we all were hoping that because now, all right, so here’s the first Mac Pro that we are in charge of all of it, and here’s what we can do. Instead, they’re like, all right, well, here’s the same thing with some better stuff.
RL: It may cost a gazillion dollars, but it would just be fun to have in the lineup.
MS: I don’t care if it starts at $12,000. I’m not buying it anyway.
JC: The same case is the part that’s kind of disappointing to me because you definitely, with it, clearly if you look at a Mac Studio, with an M2 Ultra, they don’t need the kind of cooling and power supply stuff that’s in its current one. It’s nice for people who bought the rack mount version, I guess, to have something that fits in their 2U rack again. I don’t know why they need so much space. It’s nice to have the cards, I guess, and it’s nice that it still works with the wheels.
MS: It’s like when the M1 Mac mini came out. When you did the teardown, it’s like, well, there is so much room in here.
JC: They could have done so much more with this. Why didn’t you either shrink this or put more stuff in here?
MS: But it’s just empty space.
JC: It’s empty space. They didn’t even put as many ports as they should have on it.
MS: Yeah, we’ll see. We assume WWDC. I think they’re clearing out that spring event for the AR headset. Like we were talking about maybe there’s a new 24-inch iMac, maybe the Mac Pros will go there, maybe the Mac mini, maybe. But if so, that’s going to be like 10 minutes and then two hours for the AR headset.
JC: Yeah. I mean, some of the rumors now say that the Mac stuff that we were supposed to get at the end of last year but didn’t, which is the new MacBook Pros and maybe Mac minis. Basically, the M2 stuff that would be the Pro or Mac’s level M2 stuff.
MS: Which is just processor specs.
JC: Just processor specs basically. Maybe a design change on the Mac Mini, who knows? The latest rumors are kind of like, well, maybe that happens in a spring event, like you said, for 10 minutes, and then it’s the headset. Maybe it’s just one of those direct-to-web releases they do, which they’ve done in the spring before as well.
MS: Yeah. They do that.
JC: Yeah. And if it’s not a total redesign…the MacBooks just had a total redesign of going all the way down to the Air. So they don’t really need to do anything else. It’s going to be, just a processor bump. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was one of those, yeah, we update the website. And then the whole spring event is this mixed reality headset. The weird thing is going to be having a big event for this mixed reality headset that they’ve got and then go, you can buy it later this year, and then it ends up shooting in like September or something.
MS: Also, like, you know, there’s still the COVID stuff, like, do they have a live event? Do they have people that show up? And like, they haven’t had a stage event yet. They’ve done recorded videos at their own events.
JC: The September, last September event, they had people there in the Steve Jobs Theater, but they just watched the video.
MS: They weren’t there. Like, they didn’t do a whole thing. They’re gonna have to for this, I would think.
JC: If they fill the theater, then I feel like they’re comfortable having a live event.
MS: I still remember when the iPhone came out when Steve Jobs did the slide-to-unlock thing.
MS: The whole audience went bonkers. He actually locked the phone and did it again because people were like, wow.
JC: That’s a funny video to go back and watch, not just because the video quality is so poor. We’re used to everything being at least HD widescreen out but how tiny the iPhone was. And kind of janky looking, like very rounded and had that big chin of like on the back, that big bar on the back.
MS: The black bar for the antenna stuff, yeah.
JC: It’s cool.
RL: The bezels are giant.
MS: Yeah, it was, like, despite the quality like, I can go back and watch that like I can watch that hour long. It’s just super and Steve Jobs was totally in his element. Oh, yeah awesome to watch that whole thing.
RL: That was what, 16 years ago?
MS: Yep, 16 years ago a couple of days ago.
JC: Can’t be, I have not aged 16 years.
RL: 16 years ago.
That does it for this episode of the Macworld Podcast, episode 823. Thanks to Jason Cross.
JC: Thank you.
RL: Thanks to Michael Simon.
MS: Thank you, sir.
RL: Thanks to you, the audience. Thank you for tuning in. You can subscribe to the Macworld Podcast in the Podcast app on Spotify or through any other podcast app. If you have any comments or questions, send us an email at podcast at macworld.com or contact us through Twitter, that’s @Macworld or on the Macworld Facebook page.
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