On Tuesday Apple issued invitations for an October 16th event with the intriguing tease, “It’s been way too long.” Who could resist such a tempting summons to speculate on exactly what Apple has withheld for way too long? I count five.
New Apple TV
The last time we saw a new Apple TV was March 7, 2012, and other than its adoption of 1080p video, it was essentially the same Apple TV released in 2010. Apple has certainly added a wealth of content and features to the device—HBO Go, Beats Music, and AirPlay among them—but the box itself has been static for way too long. What better candidate for a serious update?
My colleague, Susie Ochs, offered five suggestions for improving the Apple TV—single login for all channels, universal search, voice command, a way to queue videos, and a channel store. I love each and every idea, but want more.
Back in June I proposed the idea that the Apple TV would serve as a HomeKit hub and my conviction that this be so hasn’t wavered. For reasons of both convenience and privacy it makes sense that an always-on Apple TV should be the traffic cop for any communication between your home tech and the outside world.
The perfect Apple TV would also be one that finally delivers on the promise of cable cutting. Too many of us are tied to expensive cable and satellite subscriptions that require we pay for hundreds of channels we never watch. This is far more about content deals than technology, but the success of Apple TV depends on both. I would love to see an Apple exec step on stage with a hefty set of hedge clippers and announce that access to the major networks is a simple a la carte order away.
New Mac mini
Another device last revved in 2012, the Mac mini has also seen only incremental changes in the last several years. Currently, if you want a display-less Mac you have just two choices—the awe-inspiring-but-expensive Mac Pro and the dainty-but-kind-of-underpowered Mac mini. No one expects the Mac Pro to be offered in a lite version so it’s up to the Mac mini to help narrow the gap between the two.
Each of today’s Mac mini models carry 5400-rpm hard drives. Spinning drives are so yesterday so let’s start by replacing them with SSDs. Retina displays are increasingly all the rage so a better graphics card is also needed. 4GB of RAM was generous at one time, but it no longer is. 8GB as part of the base system, please.
4K Thunderbolt Display
In 2013 Apple wowed the world with the new Mac Pro. This powerhouse Mac can drive up to three 4K displays simultaneously. And yet you can’t buy such a display that bears the Apple logo. Among professionals who can afford and make best use of the Mac Pro, a year is way too long to wait for a just-as-professional Apple display.
Retina displays everywhere
While we’re on the subject of higher-resolution displays, it’s time for Apple to make Retina displays the default on all its display-bearing Macs. It’s said that OS X Yosemite will look its very best on a Retina display, yet current iMacs and MacBook Airs still house lower-resolution displays. Adding a Retina display to an iMac is simply a matter of figuring out how to do it without pricing Apple’s most popular desktop computer out of reach of the common iMac buyer. The MacBook Air is a challenge not only because of cost, but also because of the kind of power such a display would require. Can Apple’s engineers find a way to cut other power requirements so that you could have an Air that won’t burn through a battery charge in a couple of hours? I hope so. It’s time.
Tell Carl Icahn to put a sock in it
In his latest open letter, billionaire Carl Icahn urged Apple to, among other things, build a 4K TV as well as a larger iPad with a keyboard and mouse, much like Microsoft’s not-flying-off-the-shelves Surface tablets. Having 53 million Apple shares would give anyone the idea that they can throw their weight around and advise Apple to create products that make no sense in its larger mission, but I would not be displeased to hear Tim Cook tell Icahn to “get out of this stock” if he continues publicly pushing initiatives that have no chance of success.
While all five are possible, I believe that just three are truly practical—the new Apple TV, Mac mini, and 4K Thunderbolt display. Much as I’d love to see Retina everywhere, there’s no question that the engineering around a Retina display MacBook Air would be very challenging, though if any company can manage it, it’s Apple. And Carl? A man can dream, can’t he?
Regardless of what Apple does, I'm sure that it will have been worth the wait. I’ll be watching right along with you.