xMac, 14-inch MacBook Pro, 16-inch MacBook Air, iMac XDR: Where are these missing Macs?
Apple's really been bringing the fire over the last couple of years. A lot of products that had fallen off the radar, or simply fallen off, have been brought back. Some with swagger. Some, with a vengeance.
We got a new big iPhone with Max, and updated MacBook Air, Mac mini, iPad Air, iPad mini — basically, all the airs and minis — and, most recently, a new MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and Pro Display. Yeah, all the Pros too.
But, big and badass as some of these products are — they're not all the products. Even now, at the end of the decade, there are still some gaps in Apple's lineup. Some holes. Some products just plain missing in action.
So, since I'm me, I figure I'm going to list them all out all video like and let you know which, if any, I think we might actually have a chance of seeing in the next year or few. Starting with the Mac.
MacBooks Air — 12 and 16-inch
The original 2008 MacBook Air came in one 13-inch size fits anyone willing to pay it's initial $1800 price tag. But, when Apple redesigned it in 2010, they also double sized it, adding an 11-inch model.
Apple discontinued the 11-inch Air in 2016, about 18-months after introducing the 12-inch MacBook. And, last year, when Apple announced the 3rd major MacBook Air redesign, there was nary an 11-inch in sight.
So, let's start there. For everyone who loved the old 12-inch PowerBook, 11-inch MacBook Air, or 12-inch MacBook Stealth, how about a new 12-inch MacBook Air? One that uses the same principles as the new 16-inch MacBook Pro to fit it into a barely-more than 11-inch frame.
Sure, the iPad is increasingly expected to carry the extreme-ultra-light carry, but for writers, and founders, and anyone who prefers a notebook and a Mac at that, the 12-inch is a big miss right now.
Do I think we'll see it any time soon? I actually do, though I don't know if it'll be a new 12-inch MacBook, a new 12-inch MacBook Air… or the first MacBook ARM.
On the flip side is a 16-inch MacBook Air, in the dimensional style of the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. You know, for people who want bigger screens but don't need pro-level compute to go with it.
Apple's never really gone into that part of the market, not with the previous Airs, not even with the original iBooks and MacBooks. Bigger screens have always been the domain of the more powerful machines.
I'm guessing it's not on the current Intel-based roadmap but, as the mainstream computer market broadens and, sure, as the population ages, I hope it's something Apple considers. Especially following the move to ARM.
14-inch MacBook Pro
Given Apple has just released the 16-inch MacBook Pro of my — and my others' — dreams, a similar if slightly smaller 14-inch MacBook Pro redesign just seems inevitable at this point.
It probably won't go to the stratospheric 64 GB of memory and 8 TB of storage of the bigger model, not just because of size but because of power efficiency, but as long as it gets the new scissor-switch keyboard, which is now my favorite MacBook keyboard ever, a lot of people will be a lot of happy.
So, this is as close to a when not if as I have on this list. The only big question remaining for me is if there'll be a big graphics option on the highest end. You know, an AMD one capable of driving the Pro Display so people can be extra portable on the go but extremely dynamic at home or at work. Or, if Apple figures anyone with the XDR on their desks won't mind slapping an eGPU down right next to it.
I'm guessing the latter.
iMac: The Next Generation
The standard iMac was updated at the beginning of the year and, internally, it's in great shape. Especially if Apple continues to slap new Intel and AMD chips in it as they become available. Design-wise, though, it's showing its circa 2012 age.
MacBook Air aside, Apple has pretty much spent the last few years Thanos-snapping half the bezels off every other product and almost completely off the iPhone. So, a redesign feels likewise inevitable.
I don't think Apple would use the same 5-dimensional cheese grater language as the Pro Display, but some of that boxiness, and a lot of that miniLED technology would make for one hell of an update.
Apple brought high-density Retina and wide gamut P3 to the iMac with eye-popping results. Even if they can't go XDR yet, given the packaging constraints, anything closer to HDR would be a treat.
And, while I expect some new ARM MacBook will be the first to bring Face ID to the Mac, because you don't even have to open and close a lid, the iMac is both a better and worse candidate for it — in terms of convenience vs. un-intentional unlocks.
Also, anything to get a better camera in Macs. Literally anything.
Of course, non-MacBook Macs still haven't gotten Touch ID yet so, at the very least, an updated Magic Keyboard with that fingerprint reader should be on that list.
So should a space black Magic Keyboard in general. One without the numeric pad. It's one of Apple's most glaring current product omissions.
And, yes, of course, ten years since the last redo and five years since going battery-free, a Magic Mouse redesign that doesn't require it to go awkwardly belly up just to receive a charge.
Apple Display HDR
If Apple does update the iMac with a newer, better, higher dynamic range mineLED panel, it would seem like the perfect opportunity to replace another long-missing part of Apple's Mac lineup — the Cinema Display.
When Apple did their last major iMac redesign, an LED version of the Cinema Display followed closely behind, eventually becoming the Thunderbolt Display. It just made sense, economies of IPS panel scales and all.
For the last few years, though, Apple has offloaded mainstream consumer display responsibilities to LG, who makes the same great panels as the iMac, but nowhere nearly as well designed cases.
That matters, not just because of the horn effect, which is the opposite of the halo effect, but because one of the primary selling points of the iMac is just how good it looks on your desk, at home, in offices, and especially front-of-house in customer-facing businesses.
Hey, scratch our very human surfaces and you find more surface.
Just like most people don't need the near high-endless potential of the Mac Pro, most people don't need reference displays. They just want an Apple display. And a 5K miniLED one with a new iMac look and Cinema Display feel wouldn't just be nice to have, it would be Apple to have.
Do I expect it? Alas, only when I see it.
The xMac is almost mythical at this point. That's just one of the names given over the years, if not decades, to the idea of a Mac tower that's every bit as accessible and expandable, just not anywhere nearly as high-end Pro.
Something in between the nearly completely sealed Mac mini and the nearly limitless Mac Pro.
Or, to put it another way, the exact opposite of the iMac Pro. Instead of adding massive Xeon cores and ECC memory to the iMac, making a more mainstream consumer version of the Mac Pro.
Now, the vast majority of Macs that Apple sells are laptops. Of the small sliver of desktops that remain, the vast majority of those that sell are iMacs. That it took the better part of a decade to update both the Mac mini and the Mac Pro show just how incalculably smaller consumer pressure is on those devices than on, say, I don't know… the iPhone, which never misses a year.
So, it might seem like it makes little sense, either in terms of Apple's go-to-market balance sheet or our expectational debt sheet to even consider the possibility of a smaller but still more expandable headless Mac-in-the-box.
But it would make so many nerds oh so happy, especially now that the cost-of-entry for the Mac Pro has leapt all the way up to 6 grand, that I just have to include it on the list.
Also, because it would be awesome and I'd love to see what Apple and their new workflows team could come up with for that sweetest of spots.
To be continued...?
I've mentioned my thoughts on how Apple could do multitouch Macs before, so I won't recapitulate all that here.
But, I am going to as which of the missing Macs do you want most? And what do you want to see next?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
12and 16 inch MacBook Airs would overlap the MacBook Pro line. But there would be a clear differentiation in power. I suspect the 13 inch MacBook Pro is getting the same treatment as the 16 inch just got. Like you said a 14 inch MacBook Pro. As you said the iMac is sorely in need of a redesign. And not just like the last one where they thinned the edges. No, a complete rethinking of the model. Same screen sizes, but in a totally new case with a new stand. Oh and enough of pretending that it’s just a laptop that doesn’t move. Make them user openable and upgradeable. The xMac is an idea that just won’t go away. They are 90% there with the top end MacMini. Just a better case and a few more options. It is very doable. Will they? I doubt it. A headless mid range mac has been on nearly everyone’s wish list for a couple of decades, but it never sees the light of day. Which is too bad. I think Apple would sell a lot of them.