Next week will be Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, and that means it’s time for the annual making of the wishlists and predictions. Apple is in the thick of its transition away from Intel processors to Apple Silicon. We anticipate most of the changes will be guided by that tectonic shift. It’s the summer’s big Apple event.
What is the Apple M1X?
The internet decided that Apple’s next chip will probably be called the M1X. Video pros from across the industry are waiting to see what Apple will unveil for the next iteration of the 16″ Macbook Pro. Apple’s M1 chip is a great chip. But it only sports 16GB of RAM, and the video memory isn’t up to the kind of tasks required by filmmakers. The M1X system on a chip ought to provide performance that will greatly accelerate Apple’s own apps, as well as optimized apps from anyone else. What are the rumored specs on the M1X?
- 10 Core CPU (8 high performance, 2 high-efficiency)
- Up to 64GB RAM
- 16 or 32 VRAM GPUs
- Additional ports
- Additional Thunderbolt lanes
It’s rumored that those additional ports will feature an HDMI port and an SD card reader. If true, the return of these features will be celebrated. SD cards have continued to be in widespread use, and HDMI is everywhere. It only makes sense to bring these back to Apple’s pro-level notebook.
Will Magsafe return?
One other welcome return would be the rumored Magsafe charger. Apple introduced Magsafe with the iPhone, so one would hope that the much-beloved connector will make its comeback to the Macbook Pro. Of course, there are challenges with Apple using the USB-C connection for both power and data, but we’ll see if they use some of that Apple magic to overcome that. Steve Jobs famously introduced the Magsafe connector at that Apple event by saying that “it would save us all a lot of work” from having to fix users’ notebooks. If we do see the return of Magsafe, perhaps it means that Apple got tired of fixing Macbook Pros again.
Will Apple’s pro apps run on the iPad Pro?
The new iPad Pro runs the M1 chip. In addition, it can allocate 5GB of RAM to an application. That means that there’s enough RAM to meet the bare minimum requirements to run Apple’s professional video and audio editing apps, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. This might be a long shot, but wouldn’t it be cool to see those apps running on an iPad Pro at #WWDC21? Of course, it wouldn’t be a good experience trying to navigate the desktop UI of Final Cut Pro on an iPad. But many industry observers anticipate that Apple is working to allow for an app to sport a second UI “skin” when running on iOS.
For developers, this would be a big step forward. If your app could have a single “engine” and dual finely-tuned user interfaces, we could see an explosion of pro-level functionality for the iPad. The curious thing about the latest iPad Pro is that it features more power than most iPad apps can utilize. So it stands to reason that Apple is planning for that device to be able to do some heavy lifting that we haven’t seen yet.
Many developers would also like to see Xcode running on the iPad Pro. This totally makes sense. However, there is one aspect of iOS that needs improvement before this could really work well. Users can attach a keyboard, mouse, and display to the iPad Pro. But the display only runs a “video out” from video editing apps like LumaFusion, or mirroring in 4:3. An iPad Pro running an extended desktop to a display with a mouse and keyboard sounds like a great use case for the mac version of Xcode. Then, when you unplug your iPad, the UI swaps to a touch-oriented interface. Now the iPad starts looking like a genuine alternative to a Macbook.
Will WWDC introduce a 32″ iMac?
The new iMacs are wonderful machines. They echo the classic era of the original iMacs. Yet, they don’t have the power to satisfy video editors, audio professionals, and Photoshop power users. Those creative pros are anticipating an Apple announcement about an upgrade to the current 27″ iMac. Often, iMac upgrades get announced in the fall. But it isn’t unheard of for Apple to unveil hardware at WWDC and ship it later in the year. The new iMac features a 24″ screen (up from 21″) so it makes sense that the 27″ will get a bump too. That will help to distinguish it from the 24″ and bring it in line with the size of the Pro Display XDR. Then again, they might keep it at 27″ just to keep differentiation between it and their flagship display — so it could go either way. But it’s a safe bet to anticipate that Apple will take advantage of the M1X’s additional lanes to add more ports to a pro-oriented machine.
Will Apple unveil a new Mac Mini at WWDC?
With the debut of an M1X chip, there seems like no reason not to introduce a new Mac Mini. These machines work really well in data centers like macminicolo. Developers use them to test code, and they see use in home entertainment setups and digital signage. Many PC switchers make the mini their first Mac since they already have a display, keyboard, and mouse.
Tech industry watchers hope to see a Mac Mini with more ports and a plexiglass top, echoing the famous Mac cube. We hope to see a smaller form factor and even more ports. If these rumors are true, the Mac Mini could command some serious respect and be capable of some heavy lifting. Personally, it makes you wonder if an M1X Mac Mini will run “circles” around the 2013 Mac Pro with dual D700s. I’d love to see if we could use one for transcoding proxies from REDCODE RAW dailies.
When will Third-parties optimize their apps?
Apple’s new silicon chips open new horizons for developers. Many video editors hope that third parties like Adobe and Avid will leverage the new technology. It’s one thing for Apple’s apps to use the available power, but to really support the full mac community, third-party devs need to be dedicated as well. Hopefully, developers have been preparing their legacy apps to run well on the new chips without Rosetta 2 support.
What is the Mac community hoping for?
We took the opportunity to ask some RocketYard readers, OWC customers, and other working creatives in the video industry what they are hoping for. Here’s what they said.
Arthur Dinter, colorist and editor: I’d say a new processor like the rumored M1x or M2 would top my list! The M1 is great but I want something with a bit more power. Suspiciously absent from iOS are pro apps like FCPX and Logic. Will Apple introduce an AR headset? Been rumors for years. There is also a rumor that Apple will introduce a MacBook with early ’00s-esque colours like the iBook G3 clamshell. I’d dig that.
Kays Alatrakchi, Filmmaker and Music Composer: I’d like to see a more pro CPU/GPU combo. As much as I like my M1 Mac Book Air, it’s no replacement for a proper workstation. Couldn’t care less about a new version of FCPX, and most definitely I’m not planning on editing anything on my iPad anytime soon!
Brain Levin, Colorist: I was underwhelmed by the most recent iMac announcement and I’m all in on the iMac as my machine of choice going forward so I’d like to see a 27″ iMac with even MORE power than it currently has. I’d like to see the next evolution of the M1 chip. Other than that I don’t feel like I’m wanting anything from Apple right now. I’d be more excited to answer if you asked me what I’d like Adobe to announce at Adobe Max because there are some serious things lacking from Premiere and After Effects in a professional environment when comparing to some of what Resolve, FCPX, and Avid are doing.
Tara Purswani, Writer: The elimination of proprietary power connectors which creates waste and additional spending. This is an issue being discussed in the EU.
Edward R. Arnold, Minister of Silly Walks (i.e. retired): I’d love to see an M1 iMac with expandable memory and 32″ screen.
Peter Link, Retired Publication System Manager, and Cyber Security Analyst: I gave up worrying about what Apple was going to announce, both software and hardware, a long time ago. Because it would take me at least a year to get funding for anything Apple-related, I could be surprised and then figure out what to do. I bought the M1 MBA after it came out and was thoroughly thrilled. Since my retirement doesn’t come with a six-figure income I still have a late 2015 refurbished iMac, bought from MacSales.com, of course. 😀
I really am hoping Apple will at least tease us with really high specs for the Mac Pro. I am dreaming that they would also talk about separate GPUs. I also truly wish Apple would bring back a dedicated Mac server designed by and for Mac users. None of this backward BS trying to get it to work. There are plenty of users who don’t use cloud services, many for obvious reasons while others shouldn’t be using cloud services controlled by others.
My role today is helping family and friends who actually ask me for help (my brothers are know-it-alls like me and probably most of us). I gave up trying to convert people to Apple products because most either don’t care what they use or simply are “anti-whatever-Peter says.”
Mick Guinn, Former CEO and lovable mascot for Mick’s Macs, Inc.: What I’d love most to see (directly or indirectly) is a road map to where Apple is planning to take us. I would sell my soul to divorced Bill Gates just to be in a room with Tim and the trusted disciples (Phil, Eddy, Craig, John, and John) and hear the 5-year plan. We all know about the SoC M-series, so what is the next iteration going to do? I don’t really care if they call it M1X or M2.
- I’d like to see a massive effort to allow users to control SPAM on all of their apps.
- I’d love more info about what Apple is planning to do with Augmented Reality. Some have suggested it might even be part of an Apple car one day, but I suspect Apple will test a pedestrian version first.
- AppleCash for droid users too. AppleCash is pretty great. But it only works from iOS device to iOS device. Apple could put a dent in Venmo if they could add other mobile phones.
- I confess I’m nervous about the rise of iOS. It may be the best we can do for the iPhone and iPad, but I would prefer it not merge with the macOS. I really hope and pray that is not Apple’s plan. I appreciate how Apple has not implemented touch screens on the macOS and hope they will keep it that way. They’re already dirty enough without poking at them all day.
- My ever-expanding gut says that there’s a good chance we’ll see the high-end MBPs announced. It’s been 6 mos. since the M1 graces all of Apple’s consumer line, and now would be an excellent time to announce what Pros with mobility needs will be working with.
- My long shot call is that Apple teases everyone with even a delivery date of January 2022 for the new MacPro. The WWDC folks should eat that up.
Those are the big things I (and you) are hoping to see from WWDC 2021. We know for sure that iOS 15 and macOS 12 will make their debut. But what are you hoping for? What holes in Apple’s ecosystem do you see? Where should Apple put its efforts to support creative professionals?