Ap­ple in 2018: what we ex­pect, what we want

Ap­ple had a big year, but 2018 can be even big­ger. Here’s what Ja­son Cross ex­pects from the world’s most valu­able com­pany

Macworld - - Contents -

Ap­ple re­leased some killer prod­ucts in 2017, and made some re­ally big soft­ware screwups. Will the com­pany con­tinue its rapid pace of new prod­uct re­leases? Can it keep up the pace with­out sac­ri­fic­ing qual­ity and se­cu­rity? What’s it go­ing to do with its enor­mous pile of cash?

Pre­dict­ing the fu­ture of tech is no­to­ri­ously hard, and dou­bly so with a com­pany as fa­mously se­cre­tive as Ap­ple. Still, we have some idea of what to ex­pect in 2018. Here are our own pre­dic­tions and shame­less wish list items for the com­ing year.

A whole new ipad

It’s time for a new ipad. Ap­ple dom­i­nates the pre­mium tablet mar­ket, but it’s not go­ing to keep things that way if it rests on its lau­rels. Sure, in­no­va­tions like Ap­ple Pen­cil are fan­tas­tic, but the ipad hasn’t seen a re­ally big de­sign re­fresh in a long time.

The bezel-less iphone X is the per­fect break­ing point from which to re-imag­ine the ipad, and ac­cord­ing to ru­mours, a new de­sign is on the way.

We ex­pect old-style ipad to con­tinue to be sold, but at least one new ipad with slim­mer bezels and no home but­ton is prob­a­bly on the hori­zon. It’ll have an A11X or sim­i­lar ‘big A11’ pro­ces­sor, the best dis­play ever in an ipad, and will prob­a­bly be pitched as an aug­mented re­al­ity and AI pow­er­house.

ipads are of­ten an­nounced in the spring, but in 2016 Ap­ple took the lid off the new ipads dur­ing its WWDC key­note in June. In a way, that makes the most sense, as it gives a good op­por­tu­nity to show­case them with up­com­ing IOS 12 fea­tures.

Face ID ev­ery­where

Touch ID isn’t go­ing to fully dis­ap­pear this year, but it seems ob­vi­ous that Ap­ple’s a big be­liever in its Truedepth cam­era sys­tem and Face ID. We might

see bet­ter hard­ware in Ap­ple’s cam­era-and-sen­sor ar­ray, but cer­tainly, im­proved soft­ware will make Face ID faster and more se­cure.

It’ll also spread out to more prod­ucts. What­ever comes af­ter iphone X will of course fea­ture Face ID, and it’s a shoo-in for a new top-tier ipad model.

But we’d love to see it on Macs, too. Mi­crosoft’s Hello tech has made it clear that fa­cial recog­ni­tion has a place in lap­tops and desk­tops, and the Face­time cam­eras in the en­tire Mac lineup are in des­per­ate need of im­prove­ment. Swap­ping it out for the Truedepth mod­ule as seen on iphone X could not only give Macs some re­ally use­ful ca­pa­bil­i­ties (like lock­ing the sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally as soon as you step away and un­lock­ing when you come back),

but would also rocket the we­b­cam qual­ity to the front of the class. Kill two birds, Ap­ple.

iphone X, part 2

If the ru­mours are to be be­lieved, we will see a fol­low-up to the iphone X, very sim­i­lar in shape and size but with small re­fine­ments and an all-new, faster, bet­ter A12 sys­tem-on-chip.

It may be ac­com­pa­nied by a larger 6.5in ver­sion, vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal save for its larger size and high­er­res­o­lu­tion dis­play. If Plus-model iphone are any in­di­ca­tion, it’ll also have a larger bat­tery. We hope, how­ever, that Ap­ple doesn’t keep some func­tions only for that larger model, as it keeps the dual cam­era mod­ule ex­clu­sive to Plus-sized iphones.

A third iphone is also said to be in the works. It would carry a 6.1in dis­play at a lower res­o­lu­tion, us­ing and LCD in­stead of OLED, but still use the roughly 2:1 ra­tio of cur­rent iphones with slim bezels and Face ID in­stead of Touch ID. This would be the more af­ford­able of the new iphones, but it will still prob­a­bly cost some­where around £700.

Of course, Ap­ple will con­tinue to fill out its line-up by sell­ing last-year’s mod­els, and two-yearold mod­els, too. So you’ll still be able to buy the iphone 7 and 7 Plus, along with the 8 and 8 Plus, all at re­duced prices. The iphone SE may get a small spec bump, too, but noth­ing more.

Mas­sive Siri im­prove­ments

If we’re be­ing hon­est, Siri needs work. It’s in a dis­tant third be­hind Google As­sis­tant and Alexa.

It doesn’t un­der­stand our speech as ac­cu­rately. It doesn’t give us use­ful answers. It doesn’t in­te­grate with as many other ser­vices and smart home ap­pli­ances.

Just one ex­am­ple: if I ask for the sta­tus of

United flight 580 (a text­book Ai-as­sis­tant type of task), Siri per­forms a web search while Google gives me an an­swer.

It seems like Ap­ple took its eye off the ball with Siri for a cou­ple years, per­haps not real­iz­ing how much its com­peti­tors were in­vest­ing in AI as­sis­tants and how quickly its lead in that area would van­ish. What was once a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage has be­come a sore spot.

But Ap­ple doesn’t it­er­ate in pub­lic like some other com­pa­nies do. We’ve got a sneak­ing

sus­pi­cion that the com­pany has been hard at work on ma­jor ad­vances for Siri, the de­vel­op­ment of which re­cently changed hands from Eddy Cue’s team (In­ter­net ser­vices like Ap­ple Pay and Maps) to Craig Fed­erighi’s (macos, IOS).

Un­for­tu­nately, we’ll prob­a­bly have to wait for IOS 12 to be un­veiled at WWDC in the sum­mer to see what Ap­ple has in store for Siri. But we have a feel­ing it’s go­ing to be big. It had bet­ter be!

More AR and AI

Ap­ple’s bet­ting big on aug­mented re­al­ity. The AR ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the lat­est iphones are in­dus­trylead­ing, and ARKIT was a re­ally big first step to­ward en­abling de­vel­op­ers.

Ap­ple rarely speaks defini­tively about the fu­ture, but at a re­cent earn­ings call, CEO Tim Cook said:

“I view AR as pro­found. Not today, not the app you’ll see on the App Store today, but what it will be, what it can be, I think it’s pro­found, and I think Ap­ple is in a re­ally unique po­si­tion to lead in this area.”

So yeah, ex­pect lots more AR stuff in 2018.

It’s prob­a­bly too early to ex­pect a stand­alone AR head­set. But aug­mented re­al­ity will be a ma­jor sell­ing point of new iphones and of IOS 12. It wouldn’t shock me in the slight­est to see AR built into Ap­ple Maps, the edit­ing tools in Photos and imovie, even AR stick­ers in imes­sage.

Mean­while, ARKIT will surely be­come far more ad­vanced for de­vel­op­ers, en­abling new fea­tures

like ver­ti­cal sur­face scan­ning, and ush­er­ing in a whole new wave of apps. This will be en­abled, in part, by new ma­chine learn­ing ad­vances and fur­ther break­throughs in AI.

Ap­ple in­vests deeply in ma­chine learn­ing and leans on it for ev­ery­thing from im­prov­ing the photos we take, to mak­ing Siri sound more nat­u­ral, to mea­sur­ing our work­outs with the Ap­ple Watch.

It’s a fun­da­men­tal, yet of­ten un­seen, as­pect of so much of Ap­ple’s soft­ware.

Ex­pect to hear a lot more in the com­ing year about how AI and ma­chine learn­ing is trans­form­ing Ap­ple’s soft­ware.

Mac Pro

All the way back in April 2017, Ap­ple ad­mit­ted that the ‘trash can’ de­sign of the Mac Pro was a mis­take. It made the prod­uct hard for the com­pany to up­date fre­quently enough, and nearly im­pos­si­ble for users to up­grade or ser­vice them­selves.

It said a new Mac Pro is on the way with a “com­pletely rethought” mod­u­lar de­sign. Oh, and new Ap­ple Pro dis­plays are com­ing with them.

Well, 2018 is the year. It just has to be. If the whole year comes and goes with­out a big new Mac Pro re­veal, Ap­ple’s go­ing to make a lot of its most im­por­tant cus­tomers re­ally up­set. Be­sides, the com­pany has ap­par­ently had top tal­ent work­ing on this prod­uct for some time. If not this year, when?

I’ve got no idea what a new Mac Pro would look like, but I sus­pect a more tra­di­tional tower (per­haps a ‘com­pact’ tower) is likely. That’s the best way to man­age the ther­mals of a wide va­ri­ety of mod­u­lar com­po­nents and to let users up­grade drives, ram, even graph­ics cards. It’ll prob­a­bly have a whole lot of high-speed I/O ports (Ap­ple has al­ways con­sid­ered that a core Pro re­quire­ment) and if I had to guess, whis­per-quiet op­er­a­tion is go­ing to be a sell­ing point.

It will also be ex­pen­sive, uti­liz­ing work­sta­tion­class pro­ces­sors like In­tel Xeons and work­sta­tion graph­ics cards. While I don’t think it’s likely, how cool would it be for Ap­ple to of­fer sys­tem based on the next-gen­er­a­tion Ryzen (or Thread­rip­per) CPUS from AMD?

macos 10.14

Ap­ple’s not quite on the same ca­dence with macos as it is with IOS. It’s just where their cus­tomers are. Still, a new ver­sion of macos gets an­nounced ev­ery year at WWDC in June, and re­leased later in the year. macos High Sierra (10.13) was some­what of a “main­te­nance re­lease,” adding only a few new fea­tures but mostly fo­cus­ing on sta­bil­ity, per­for­mance, and un­der-the-hood up­grades like the Ap­ple File Sys­tem (APFS).

There will prob­a­bly be a macos 10.14 in 2018, but we don’t ex­pect a ma­jor, fea­ture-packed facelift. Like High Sierra, 10.14 will prob­a­bly fo­cus on a few core tech­nolo­gies and a small hand­ful of com­par­a­tively mi­nor new fea­tures, with ma­jor de­sign changes land­ing in 2019.

That said, we do have a few items on our wish list for a new ver­sion of macos. The split-view mul­ti­task­ing on ipads is great, and would be a boon to lap­top users (who of­ten work full-screen). It’s less nec­es­sary on big 27in imacs, but the Mac mar­ket leans heav­ily to­ward the lap­top side.

The new Con­trol Cen­tre in IOS 11, with a se­ries of sim­ple user-se­lectable con­trols, would be wel­come on macos. It has been sug­gested that it re­place the dated, and not very use­ful, Ap­ple menu on the sta­tus bar. I think that’s a great idea. Of course, Con­trol Cen­tre on the Mac would have a dif­fer­ent set of con­trols and cus­tomiza­tion op­tions than on IOS, and an API for de­vel­op­ers to al­low op­tional Con­trol Cen­tre func­tions wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Fi­nally, we re­ally hope itunes is get­ting a big over­haul. Re­mov­ing apps in 12.7 was the first step, but it needs much fur­ther re­fine­ment. I’d love to see video watch­ing, or­ga­ni­za­tion, and pur­chas­ing in one app and all the mu­sic stuff in an­other.

Code name: Marzi­pan

A re­cent re­port from Bloomberg sug­gested that Ap­ple is plan­ning a sin­gle, uni­fied app de­vel­op­ment sys­tem for IOS and macos.

“Start­ing as early as next year, soft­ware de­vel­op­ers will be able to de­sign a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion that works with a touch­screen or mouse and track­pad de­pend­ing on whether it’s run­ning on the iphone and ipad op­er­at­ing sys­tem or on Mac hard­ware, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.”

It’s even got an in­ter­nal code name: Marzi­pan. I’m scep­ti­cal, though. The whole ‘write once, run any­where’ dream has been at­tempted many times in com­puter sci­ence, and it never re­ally plays out. Be­sides, macos and IOS are just too dif­fer­ent. IOS has no con­cept of a mouse, macos al­ways as­sumes a pointer of some sort. IOS has sup­ported mul­ti­touch as a core con­cept from the be­gin­ning, but Ap­ple has been clear that it does not in­tend to bring touch to Macs (and the track­pad is no real sub­sti­tute).

That said, I wouldn’t be at all sur­prised if Ap­ple is work­ing on bring­ing to­gether the macos and IOS App Stores, and giv­ing de­vel­op­ers a new tool­kit and suite of APIS that make de­vel­op­ing cross­com­pat­i­ble apps much eas­ier.

Ap­ple could eas­ily unify many as­pects of app de­vel­op­ment, leav­ing de­vel­op­ers to worry pri­mar­ily about how to deal with dif­fer­ent in­ter­ac­tion mod­els and vari­able win­dow sizes. It could quite sim­ply unify the macos and IOS app stores, al­low­ing users to ‘buy once and run any­where’. This wouldn’t mean that ev­ery IOS app would run on macos, but at least when a de­vel­oper does make an app avail­able across mul­ti­ple plat­forms, we wouldn’t have to buy it twice. That’s a big win for ev­ery­one.

There could even be shared icloud con­fig­u­ra­tion and save space for apps, so that your app pref­er­ences, game saves, and con­fig­u­ra­tions would sync be­tween IOS and macos ver­sions.

It’s a big un­der­tak­ing, but it’s ex­actly the kind of thing Ap­ple’s ecosys­tem needs. Ap­ple’s the only

com­pany left with a very pop­u­lar mo­bile plat­form and a PC plat­form that sells tens of mil­lions of units a year to con­sumers around the world. Over­lap­ping IOS and macos apps, to the de­gree that it makes sense and is tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble, could be a big win.

What we don’t ex­pect in 2018

Speak­ing of TV shows, Ap­ple’s go­ing big into its own orig­i­nal con­tent. It’s go­ing to spend $1 bil­lion on its own TV shows, in­clud­ing a $5 mil­lion-perepisode re­vival of Spiel­berg’s Amaz­ing Sto­ries. We’ll just start to see the first of th­ese ef­forts in 2018, but it’s not go­ing to be Ap­ple’s ‘big TV year’. It takes plenty of time to de­velop, shoot, and edit a big TV se­ries. Ap­ple will be busy with all of that in 2018, with the bulk of the shows pre­mier­ing in 2019.

There’s a fair chance Ap­ple will launch some sort of new video ser­vice in 2018, it’s own com­peti­tor

to Net­flix or Hulu, but I think we should tem­per our ex­pec­ta­tions here. Ap­ple has re­port­edly been try­ing to make an over-the-top TV ser­vice for years, but I think that ship may have sailed. What we all want is an Ap­ple Mu­sic for tele­vi­sion – one price (more than £10 a month of course), with un­lim­ited com­mer­cial-free ac­cess to new TV as it airs and old TV ar­chives. What­ever Ap­ple’s plans were, it clearly was never able to work out the li­cens­ing deals. Ap­ple’s even­tual video ser­vice is prob­a­bly go­ing to fo­cus on orig­i­nal con­tent and a sam­pling of older li­censed movie and TV con­tent – it’ll prob­a­bly be more Net­flix than Sling TV.

Also in the ‘com­ing even­tu­ally but not in

2018’ mode is AR glasses. Ap­ple’s bet­ting big on aug­mented re­al­ity, and has a bet­ter shot than any­one of pro­duc­ing a wear­able AR prod­uct peo­ple are ac­tu­ally to slap on their face. It’s an enor­mously com­plex task for which the tech­nol­ogy sim­ply won’t be ready un­til at least 2019, though.

Ap­ple’s also not go­ing to re­lease a car (in

2018 or ever). Ap­ple’s prob­a­bly work­ing on some nifty car soft­ware com­bin­ing some level of au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, safety, map­ping, and maybe even some­thing unique like a heads-up dis­play.

But Ap­ple’s play there is to work with car mak­ers to be the user-fac­ing soft­ware plat­form for their cars, not to pro­duce a car it­self. Even just do­ing the soft­ware – with­out build­ing an Ap­ple car – would in­volve un­rav­el­ling a com­pli­cated Gor­dian knot of deal­er­ship laws, hard­ware in­te­gra­tion, test­ing reg­u­la­tions, and more.

Ap­ple’s mov­ing into TV, but 2018 won’t be the big year for it

Ap­ple will up­date its desk­top OS in the au­tumn

Vir­tu­ally plac­ing IKEA chairs is just the tip of the ice­berg. AR will get more ad­vanced, and more use­ful, in 2018

Siri (left) can’t give a straight­for­ward an­swer to many of the ques­tions we’d ex­pect an AI as­sis­tant to help with. Google As­sis­tant (right) can

The 10.5in ipad Pro is the best tablet Ap­ple’s ever built, but a de­sign change is in or­der

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