Apple's fall iPad and Mac event is right around the corner, and there's plenty the company could choose to show off to the world on Thursday morning. OS X Yosemite is a lock, and perhaps iOS 8.1 as well. New iPads seem certain, as do new Macs. Like always, the real stories will be in the details. So what's likely to pop up on that Town Hall stage? What doesn't have a chance? We debate and discuss below!
Regarding those iPads…
Serenity: Of all the rumors and speculation, I consider new iPads pretty much a lock at this point. Apple's a company of patterns, and given that it moved the iPad to a Fall release in 2012, it seems perfectly logical that we'll see new iPad and iPad mini models on Thursday with a public release the week after.
Of course, there's plenty of speculation as to what might feature in that new iPad. Like that pesky gold rumor...
Peter: GOOOOOLD (and a sad head shake from me).
Rene: Peter's jealousy of gold — the only acceptable color — notwithstanding, this year looks like it'll be a good blend of cosmetic advances with power efficiencies and conveniences. That might not sound like much, but people are both easily bored and change averse and that's not always an easy line to walk.
A new color adds some pizzazz, while a new Apple A8 processor will either let Apple make the iPads even lighter, or make the battery life even longer, or a bit of both. And that will make them more enjoyable and usable for everyone.
Ally: Even though I relentlessly made fun of Rene last year for buying a gold iPhone, it eventually grew on me. And I purchased a gold iPhone 6, GASP! However, I'm not sure I'm ready for a gold iPad, that's far too much gold in one place I think. I've traditionally always went with a white iPad, because I detest fingerprints. I'll have to see the gold in person, if it happens, before deciding. I'm perfectly happy with my iPad Air, minus its lack of Touch ID.
Peter: Within days of getting my iPhone 5S I was frustrated that my Retina iPad didn't have Touch ID - I kept placing my finger on the home button and wondering why it wasn't unlocking. This one feature really kept me on the fence last year when the iPad Air was released. I'm looking forward to Touch ID finally coming to the iPad — it may even make me get a new one.
Rene: I'm with Peter on this one. It currently takes me 10 seconds to unlock my iPad Air, 7 of which are spent remembering that it doesn't have Touch ID. What with Touch ID application programming interfaces (API) in iOS 8, and Apple Pay launched almost simultaneously, giving the iPads access to biometric identification seems inevitable. And yes, I will tap that 9.7-inch NFC-laden screen at the McDonald's drive-through, because that's how ridiculously I roll.
Ally: Not having Touch ID on the iPad is annoying at this point. Give it to me, now.
Serenity: Agreed. Touch ID seems like a no-brainer—although I'm unsure, Rene, as to whether we might see it bundled with Apple Pay. It seems a bit unwieldy for paying at terminals, but then again, Apple has proved before that people like to do unwieldy things with these tablets (like take photographs with them… sigh).
Rene: Rumors of a 13-inch iPad Pro are the new rumors of a 7-inch iPad mini. Since we got that, we'll likely get this. Whether we'll get it this event is the more specific question. There's inarguably a market for it among power users, creatives, and those for whom the iPad is the primary home computing platform. I just don't think that market needs to be satisfied just yet. Maybe April?
Serenity: I've been dreaming of an iPad Pro for years (with a pressure-sensitive screen for good drawing work, naturally), but as I said on our podcast last week, I'd prefer to wait a little bit longer if Apple doesn't yet feel like it's developed a proper niche for the device. If the company wants to capture the imagination of pros in the tablet space, it needs both extra hardware perks—the aforementioned pressure-sensitivity or Apple's new Force Touch technology, perhaps, along with some under-the-hood power—and some new software integration. I would buy an iPad Pro in a heartbeat if Apple built mobile versions of apps like Final Cut and Logic and used Continuity features to connect them with their desktop counterparts.
Peter: I can see some practical applications for an iPad Pro, but I have to admit that the idea leaves me a bit cold. Anything bigger than the iPad has me yearning for a keyboard and trackpad.
Ally: I personally would have no use for an iPad Pro since I'm not a designer or anyone who would benefit from carrying around a device that large. However, I do think there's a market for it if Apple can nail the execution and price.
Peter: Given that iMacs are the only other Mac computer besides the laptops to have an integrated screen, adding a Retina display to the iMac seems like an obvious choice. iMacs have become staples for creative pros and others looking for enough horsepower to do the heavy lifting we sometimes think of when we think of the Mac — digital video, photo editing, content creation.
iMacs are also enormously popular with regular consumers looking for a home Mac — in my store, the people we sell them to are mainly just regular users looking for a new desktop computer in their house. Many of those same customers haven't made the leap to a Retina MacBook yet — they'll use a MacBook Air, if anything. So I suspect a Retina iMac may be some Mac users' first experience with a Retina Mac anything. I'm willing to bet, however, that the Retina iMac is going to be limited to the bigger size only.
Rene: I currently use a Retina MacBook Pro at home, connected iMac-like to a non-Retina Thunderbolt display. I also use a non-Retina MacBook Air for travel. And yes, those big, chunky pixels absolutely scrape my pupils raw.
It doesn't sound like the Intel Broadwell Retina MacBook Airs are going to be ready this year — though I'd love it if they were! — and it doesn't sound like Retina Thunderbolt displays will be enjoyable given current bandwidth limitations, but a Retina iMac…
...Every photographer, videographer, designer, and pixel purist in the galaxy will be all over that.
And a new Mac mini. Because, damn.
Serenity: OS X Yosemite deserves a Retina screen to welcome its beautifully minimalistic and transparent UI to the stage, and what better device to debut it with than the iMac? Apple's desktop computer going Retina would leave just the Air and Thunderbolt Display Retina-less, and both have avenues to go that way at a future time.
While in my heart I am yearning for a Retina-screen MacBook Air, Rene's right: it doesn't look like they're in the cards for this event. Intel's Broadwell chips haven't even officially shipped yet (though they're reportedly due to begin doing so this month) and they'd be a big part of a hypothetical Retina Air laptop.
Ally: I'd really like to lay eyes on a retina MacBook Air but it probably won't happen this year. I just purchased a new iMac in 2013 so if new retina desktops are announced, as they're rumored, I'll be interested to see how pricing compares to what's currently offered. I'm still convinced Apple would offer a retina Mac as a top configuration option, and nothing less.
OS X Yosemite — recapitulated?
Rene: Craig Federighi was superman back at WWDC 2014. Not only did he handle OS X Rancho Cucamonga… er… Yosemite with style and wit, he kept going and going through iOS 8.1 and all the new developer tools and feature as well.
None of that was recapitulated at the iPhone and Apple Watch event last month, leaving this month ripe for it. Continuity and especially Apple Pay are so demonstrable they almost have to make an appearance, don't they?
Peter: The question isn't if, it's what is going to be demoed. We got a pretty thorough demo of Yosemite at WWDC in June, as Rene points out. What's more, Yosemite has been publicly tested for months, so there aren't a lot of stones left unturned. Or are there? I guess we'll find out Thursday.
Ally: My guess would be that we'll at the very least see a recap with emphasis on features that tie directly into iOS 8.1.
Serenity: I expect and hope for a lot more on Continuity, Apple's new system for sharing and handing off app data and information between your Mac and iOS devices; we got a brief overview at WWDC, but this event would be a perfect time to really see what this new technology is capable of. Third-party Handoff demonstrations and extensibility widgets wouldn't be out of line, either.
iOS 8.1, the Apple Pay and continuity enabler
Rene: Yosemite brings with it those new Continuity features for Mac, including SMS and call relay, and Handoff for apps and websites. However, for any of that to work, our iPhones and iPads will need to be updated to iOS 8.1. For Apple Pay to work, our iPhones and potentially new iPads will need iOS 8.1.
So, I think this event is going to need iOS 8.1
Ally: We need 8.1 for Apple Pay to work, so I'm pretty resolved in the fact that it'll be announced at this event. I can't see Apple giving it no stage time and just releasing it.
Serenity: And if there are any iPad-specific software goodies coming with the new hardware models, they'd need a software update to deliver them.
Are we going to see a new Apple TV?
Rene: Apple TV as a project seems to have gained increased importance at Apple over the course of the last year. The engineering talent there is formidable. Something incredibly interesting is happening.
New features like a game or app store, 4K support, TV agreements, etc. all seem to be on the horizon, but would all require substantially improved hardware and an entirely new interface dynamic. While the last Apple TV box was released all the way back in 2012, the iOS 7-style makeover hit just last month. That's why I don't think we'll see the next new box until spring 2015.
Peter: Nope, no new Apple TV. Too many things are in motion right now for us to see a new one. And no actual television with an Apple logo on it, now or ever. I love that crazy Gene Munster, though, forever tilting at windmills.
Ally: While I'd love to dream and hope, sadly I think we'll have to wait until the spring for a new Apple TV.
Serenity: Agreed. The little set top box that could has certainly moved beyond hobby status in Apple's mind, but it's still going to be a little while before we see next-generation hardware. In the meantime, I'm sure the company will continue adding content and software updates for the current models.
More Apple Watch to watch?
Rene: I could see Apple mentioning the Apple Watch again if they want to keep attention and momentum going on it, but it feels like Apple Watch had enough of a spotlight last month that they don't need more this month. All they need to do now is finish it and ship.
Peter: I'm with Rene on this. Not only because Apple needs to finish it, but because the spotlight should be on iPads and Macs. My only exception would be if there's some killer functionality exposed on the Apple Watch when used in conjunction with a Mac, but I doubt it — this thing's tethered to the iPhone, not the Mac.
Ally: I can't think of any reason Apple needs to mention the Apple Watch, but that doesn't mean they won't. It may play a brief cameo role, but I doubt it'll be given more than a few minutes' stage time.
Serenity: I'll bet the Apple Watch will have prominent stage time at this event—on Apple executives' wrists. I doubt we'll see any further demonstrations, though.
Keep it locked to iMore for much more!
We'll be there live tomorrow to bring you back all the highlights and hands-on from Apple's 2014 October Event. To make sure you don't miss a moment, bookmark our iPad and Mac event page, get some snacks prepared, start Apple's live stream, and then settle in for all the action. It starts at 10am PT, 1pm ET.
Okay, now that we've had our say and that's out of the way, it's your turn. What do you think we'll see tomorrow?