I don’t really think 2016 was a particularly great year for anybody. Why would any year that starts with the losses of Lemmy and David Bowie be anything other than awful? Apple felt it too, and it will take even more corporate courage for the company as it moves into another year of transition in 2017. Here are a few predictions for the year ahead:
At the mothership
Apple’s new spaceship-shaped campus is expected to open for business next year with around 12,000 employees moving to the new office. The campus hosts its own state-of-the-art auditorium, so it is reasonable to imagine the company will host some special events there, potentially including WWDC. Will this take place there next year? I think not, but think it may make a great location for the launch of the next iPhone.
What’s on the box?
Most movies are already filmed (but not released) in 4K. Most console games support it and televisions with 4K support are becoming cheaper. We don’t yet have a huge selection of available 4K content, but it seems inevitable. Apple is in the position to kick start this with iTunes, UHD movie rentals (big broadband only) and 4K support in Apple TV. Will this happen in 2017? Will Apple TV become a hub for next-generation AR and VR experiences?
AirPods for everyone
Used with an iPhone as the brain, an Apple Watch, and (perhaps in future) wearable touch displays or some form of eyeglass, AirPods will emerge as an important component to the post-iPhone augmented human age. The only problem with such a tech Nirvana is broadband access. Apple still needs to tell us what these connected devices can achieve when used without Internet access. Et tu, Siri?
Apple Watch gets independence
The Apple Watch needs to be a connected product to truly shine. It needs its own SIM. Once it has that you can predict a range of new medical sensors and services, and FaceTime camera. We may even see a round Apple Watch take a bow.
It seems incredible that the iPhone is only ten years old. The device transformed the mobile phone industry and set a template for smartphone design that no one in the industry has ever bettered. Apple set the bar, consumers know this, and this is why iPhones remain the best-selling devices despite imitative competitors. In 2017, Apple will use a range of proprietary technologies to set an even higher bar its competitors will find hard to emulate. A new design, incredible processor and graphics speed, completely wireless, a curved screen, and more. Expect three models, including a premium version with an OLED display and an A10-powered iPhone SE 2 for 4-inch phone fans.
iPads will all go Pro. I am hoping for an iPad Pro Mini, which I think would be popular, However, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks the company will offer 9.7-inch, 12.9-inch and10.5-inch iPad Pros, with the smallest model being a lower powered version. I hate that idea, by the way, as it adds an unnecessary level of complexity for no compelling reason that I can see.
Back to the Mac?
Will Apple ever go back to the Mac? Where you stand on this is interesting – will Apple CEO, Tim Cook’s promise of “great” new Macs in 2017 trump Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and his claims of trouble at the Mac mill?
Apple must ask itself if it really wants to squander the loyalty of Mac users, or if it wants to win them back.
There’s absolutely no doubt the company needs to refresh its desktops, there is little doubt that it will introduce its MacBook Pro Touch Bar across other products, and it seems likely we’ll see Touch ID deployed in future Macs, along with a Force Touch Keypad.
USB-C will be in place across the range. We will see new iMacs, but will we see a Mac Pro? I think it’s arguable at this point – but I do believe Cook when he promises great new Macs. Though I am concerned if Apple’s senior management has succumbed to the kind of political in-fighting which cost the company so dear in the pre-Jobs, post-Jobs era when the company slowly lost its way.
AR, VR and AI
In future combining these three things will make more sense. 2017 may see Apple deploy machine intelligence based health solutions, and may also see it reveal some of the AR solutions it has been working on in its lab. If the company intends announcing AR products there is a possibility we may see them discussed at WWDC as the company seeks to motivate developers. Alternatively, the company may want to work with key developers in secret to develop new platforms with a view to making announcements later in the year. An Apple VR for Xmas 2017 doesn’t feel impossible.
Apple Pay, iTunes, Apple Music and more. Apple will extend some services to new platforms in 2017 and is likely to build them out more. Apple Pay will gain more features, such as person-to-person and bill payments. There has been speculation the company will migrate to a subscription model for all its products and services, meaning you’ll be able to own the best Mac and iPhones and access your choice of Apple services for a monthly fee. That’s not such a bad idea as it means the company will become less dependent on the erratic fiscal flow of its current product driven business model. Apple Music should gain high-res audio.
We’re going to hear even more rumors about Apple’s work in automobiles, but I imagine that’s one Christmas we won’t be seeing in 2017.
Underpinning all of these things are Apple’s four operating systems, macOS, tvOS, iOS and watchOS. Expect more machine intelligence to bring all these elements together. Will we see carOS appear on the list?
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