You can essentially sum up the WWDC keynote as many of 2017’s predictions about Macs, the iPad, and operating systems being realized in one place. My own humble predictions were actually more conservative than I expected.
So let’s begin: Some time back, in wishing and hoping for more productivity features on the iPad, one of my guests on The Tech Night Owl LIVE said it would be wrong to make it more Mac-like. Evidently Apple has another idea. So an iPad with iOS 11 will have a Dock that very closely resembles the one on a Mac. There will be a Files app that provides an interface with strong Finder-like influences. Consider drag and drop and other improvements to iPad multitasking and you’ll see evidence that Apple is definitely paying serious attention to finding ways to make it more productive. And using the macOS, in part, for inspiration.
Certainly the iPad Pro lineup is not meant strictly for consumption. For that, you’d do well with a fifth generation iPad, which starts at $329.
By far the most interesting development, however, was the evident demonstration of all or most of the Macs expected in 2017 at a single event. Everything will ship shortly, except for the iMac Pro, which is promised for December, meaning maybe a handful will arrive before 2018.
I’ll admit it. My predictions were way off about the iMac. I assumed that the promised the Pro version would simply consist of a few special configurations with more powerful parts. With the introduction of the Intel Core i9 processor family, I expected Apple to use them. I didn’t anticipate that Apple would beef up the thermal capacity of the iMac — to the tune of up to 80% — and install most of the parts you’d expect for a Mac Pro. That includes Intel Xeon processors with up to 18 cores and up to 128GB of ECC RAM. It’ll also drive a pair of 5K external displays.
While some might argue that the iMac Pro might be an expensive indulgence, Apple made the point of stating that the $4,999 entry-level model — with an 8-core Xeon, 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD — is actually a couple of thousand dollars cheaper than comparable Windows PCs, minus the marvelous 5K display. Indeed, Apple has a corner on display technology. Even the LG UltraFine 5K monitor was designed in partnership with Apple, and LG reportedly supplies the panels Apple uses in its own computers.
What this also means is that there will be iMac Pro configurations that cost more than $10,000! Consider the iMac’s humble origins, in 1998, when it debuted as a modest $1,299 consumer computer using PowerBook parts. And you can top out the regular 27-inch iMac for $5,299.00. How the world has changed!
But what about the Mac Pro? Does the iMac Pro basically kill that product? Not so fast. Apple executives did promise a new Mac Pro — but not this year — at the early April confab with a handful of tech reporters. Very likely, it’ll become a headless iMac, with modular capacity and perhaps more ports. You’ll be able to swap out parts and it’ll receive regular upgrades. But it’ll probably follow the iMac Pro as a user configurable alternative, thus reducing development costs.
The regular iMac received a predictable refresh, as did the MacBook lineup. The Mac mini? You tell me. I had hoped we’d see something new by now, or maybe Apple is readying something for a fast introduction later this year.
After all those predictions about a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and its nearly edge-to-edge display, and a new version of the 12.9-inch model, there was little surprise in the announcements. These are the improvements you expected, though I might have hoped for a rethought Smart Keyboard, complete with a slide-out trackpad drawer. But that’s just my idea, and nothing stops third parties from developing one.
macOS High Sierra includes, as I expected, the final version of the Apple File System (APFS), which is already available for iPhones and iPads running iOS 10.3 or later. That update was so seamless, you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t read about it. But the presence of APFS on a Mac will deliver some amazing improvements, including virtually instant copying, encryption and other goodies. I’m also wondering how Time Machine might change to accommodate all of the new file system’s inherent advantages. Will Apple do something to make it even easier for people to backup their data? What about being able to use a Time Machine drive as a startup volume? Possible?
Fortunately, all the Macs that can run Sierra will be able to install High Sierra. But some of the features, such as Metal 2, will require the graphics chips in more recent hardware. It’s a decent tradeoff.
For iOS 11, a predictable number of older gear will be cast aside. You’ll need an iPhone 5s or later, a 4th generation iPad or later, and an iPad mini 3 or later. And, oh yes, an iPod Touch 6th generation. Again, these system requirements are quite predictable.
The improvements in iOS 11 are fairly extensive, and I notice some small, but useful touches, such as using bolder type for labels. I’m also anxious to try it out on Barbara’s iPad Air 2 and see how it manages its more Mac-like multitasking.
And the promised Siri speaker is actually a $349 HomePod speaker that’ll arrive by December, but its integration with Apple services will extend its potential way beyond the competition from Amazon and Google. AirPlay 2 will bring HomeKit support to loads of compatible speakers around your home.
The only other announcement that caught my eye was the forthcoming arrival of Amazon Instant Video on the Apple TV. The Amazon tweet says, “all Apple TVs,” which means it’ll work on my 3rd generation unit too. Good move. And maybe, just maybe, Apple will deliver an 5K Apple TV this fall.
Now back to the endless speculation about the iPhone 8.