4 Products I’d Love to See at WWDC21
We are about a month away from WWDC21, Apple’s conference focused on developers. There’s been a lot of maneuvering at Apple over the last couple of years that make me more excited about this year’s WWDC than any other I can remember. So here I want to talk about the five things I hope to see at WWDC this year.
I’ve intentionally not been paying attention to the leaks — I’m not a huge fan of the leak culture around tech companies, particularly Apple but that’s a story for another day. Here, instead, is just what I hope to see based on the direction I feel Apple has been going in with the last few rounds of product releases.
First of all though, what is WWDC? The World Wide Developer Conference is very much an event for the developers. Traditionally we see Apple introduce upcoming operating systems for most of their product lineup. Soon after, beta versions are released to allow developers time to make the necessary tweaks to their applications and give Apple feedback to polish the software till it’s ready to ship around fall. We have seen hardware at these conferences too. Last year the M1 processor was announced, which is technically hardware. We’ve also seen consumer hardware in previous years. Two Mac Pro iterations and an iMac Pro are among some products to have been unveiled at WWDC.
With that, my wish list for WWDC announcements this year includes software and hardware. Let's start with the operating system update I’m most excited for, iPadOS.
A major update to iPadOS
Since launch, the biggest criticism you could level at the iPad was that it’s essentially a giant iPhone or iPod touch. The OS running on iPads is largely to blame for that. As iPads got more and more powerful, that gap between what the hardware and software are capable of just became more glaring. iPadOS went some way towards making the iPad more capable on the software front, but the iPad Pro 2018 hardware was still far ahead of what the operating system was capable of.
This year, Apple introduced an iPad powered by an M1 processor, the very same chipset that has blown away competitors in MacBooks and Mac mini. This could just be a case of Apple had no other avenue for upgrading the iPad Pros but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Apple could have easily left the iPad Pro 2020 (or 2018 for that matter) alone for a few years while they think of more meaningful upgrades.
I think the M1 upgrade is an indicator that iPadOS is getting a major update at WWDC. I’m not entirely sure what that would look like besides getting macOS application support.
I’ve recently started a trial of Final Cut Pro for editing YouTube videos. I would love to see that application on iPad Pro with Apple Pencil support. I can also see a refresh to Finder on iPad — it’s never felt quite right to me but I can’t articulate why exactly. I’ve also seen a lot of people complain about the way iPad Pro handles external displays, maybe Apple will look to fix this too.
I don’t know what exactly I want to see, but I expect something very significant on the iPadOS front. The real question is which iPad Pros will get support for any new features. I think the iPad Pro 2018 and later should be supported — the chipsets there are very closely related to M1 after all. RAM options might be the stumbling block but I hope Apple finds a way to make it work.
M1x MacBook Pro 16-inch
On the hardware side, I would like to see a MacBook Pro 16-inch powered by the next iteration of M1. The M1 has the limitation of only supporting 2 thunderbolt ports which I don’t think is acceptable for a 16-inch MacBook Pro. The new iMac 24-inch got around this with two Thunderbolt ports and two USB-C ports but I expect Apple to have made the necessary progress to support four Thunderbolt ports by this point.
This would be the machine to make me move away from my MacBook Pro 16-inch powered by an Intel processor. I just have to convince my supervisor to shell out for another computer despite purchasing this one less than a year ago…
M1 12-inch MacBook
The 12-inch MacBook was roundly regarded as a terrible machine. It started out with the disastrous butterfly switch keyboard. It ran too hot, it was painfully slow, and cost far too much for what it was. There was also support for only one USB-C port…
In fairness, the processor-related issues were on Intel. They apparently promised Apple more power-efficient chips than they ever delivered. Either way, this was a bad machine.
So why do I hope to see it at WWDC21? Well, I think the concept was not bad, an ultra-portable MacBook with great battery life sounds compelling to me. Even considering the potential updates coming to iPadOS, I think it’s fairly certain the iPad won’t become a 2-in-1 MacBook. That is, there will be no macOS on iPad any time soon. So, if you want an ultra-portable laptop powered by macOS, the 12-inch MacBook will make sense plenty.
The M1 processor would be perfect for this machine — we know it runs perfectly fine with no fans and still outputs mind-blowing performance. Apple also fixed the keyboard; the new scissor switches are even better than the excellent pre-2015 version in my view. On top of all that, Apple won't have to pay the Intel tax so they can price this machine at a more reasonable bracket.
I would imagine this laptop would be sporting an M1 chip and not any new iteration of Apple Silicon to keep costs down. Apple now has the pieces in place to deliver the machine they always envisioned with a 12-inch MacBook.
M1x 14-inch MacBook Pro
Finally, I’d love to see a new MacBook Pro 14-inch with the next version of M1. Plenty expected to see this mythical 14-inch MacBook Pro as one of the first machines to be powered by M1 chips.
Of cause that never happened, but a redesign of MacBooks may still bring the 14-inch MacBook. The 15-inch MacBook already go the treatment, and arguably the MacBook Air 11-inch was replaced by the 12-inch MacBook.
WWDC 2021 is almost upon us, and Apple has made moves that set this event up as the most exciting one I can remember. WWDC is primarily focused on software — we see iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and more introduced here before launch in the fall. Hardware does feature too — we’ve seen Mac Pros and iMacs get announced here.
With that, my list of announcements I’d most like to see include both hardware and software releases. I’m most excited for iPadOS above all else. M1-powered iPad Pros could indicate huge changes coming. iPadOS has been criticized for holding the iPad Pro hardware back.
On the hardware front, I’d like to see a MacBook Pro 16-inch and 14-inch powered by the next iteration of the M1 processor. In particular, I want processors that can support more than 2 Thunderbolt ports.
Finally, I think Apple now has the opportunity to bring the perfect 12-inch MacBook to life. A functional keyboard, exceptional M1 processor, and ability to lower prices can all bring about that perfect machine they always wanted.
Next month, I’ll come back to this article and see which, if anything, of my wish list, was delivered!