Lots of sites are looking back at 2012 to review the year gone by, but while there is no doubt it’s been a pretty exciting year, I thought I’d start with a look at the year to come and make a few arm waving predictions about what we might see. Well, a few arm waving predictions and a good number of pretty sure bets as well.
What the Past Hath Wrought
We kicked off the year with the Retina iPad, which became not the iPad 3, as we expected, but just The iPad. A marvelous device with a gorgeous screen. Okay, it got heavier and could get a wee warm after a while, but it was certainly a screen to behold.
Speaking of screens, we got our first look at Retina MacBooks, the demise of the 17″ MacBook Pro, and the continued obsolescence of the optical drive. Oh the DVD, we hardly knew ye.
WWDC brought word of iOS 6 and Mountain Lion (and the betting on what the next cat would be fore 10.9), both we’d have soon enough. Which has brought its own issues with jailbreaks for iOS 6 proving hard to produce, but Mountain Lion bringing the cloud connection between desktop and mobile device that much closer and easier.
When fall came around boy did around we got a lot of surprises. Not just the iPhone 5, but also the iPad mini, Lightning Connectors, a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro, and a razor thin iMac.
Finally, Tim Cook hit the media in a big way with Bloomberg, NBC, and Time interviews. We got to see a whole new side of Tim Cook in these interviews, as well as him making his own distinct mark on the culture of Apple.
Days of Futures Past and Yet to Come
Now, let’s look ahead. What will 2013 hold for us the Apple faithful? Well…
Blinding Flashes of You Know…
There are some givens, things we know that will happen in 2013. WWDC will bring iOS 7 and probably the next version of OS X as well. It’s a safe bet that there will be refreshes of the iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, and MacBooks. I think the iMac will get a touch up, but it had its big change up for a while. Rumors are that OS X 10.9 will be “Lynx“, but we won’t know for sure for a while.
The “One More Things” We Want to Hear
Now for arm waving predictions.
I think Apple is going to open up iOS 7 to allow users to pick different default apps for email, maps, and browsing. The “they had this planned all along” side of me would like to think that Apple and Google wanted to wait until there were solid, reliable alternatives (essentially good apps from both Apple and Google to choose from), but really I think just like allowing third party apps and creating the app economy, this is just an idea whose time has come. Actually, it’s more of a continuation in Apple’s effort to make jailbreaking not only harder, but less attractive to users. Why be tempted to jailbreak, already a pretty niche activity, when most of the reasons to jailbreak are now within iOS core?
While the merging of iOS and OS X is always great for the rumor mill, I don’t think that will happen. However, real-time, easy connections between mobile and desktop devices will only get better. One of the lesser used features of Lion and Mountain Lion has got to be AirDrop. I don’t know why, because it AirDrop is drop-dead simple to use. You don’t even have to be connected to the same WiFi access point or any WiFi AP at all for it to work. So, why don’t we have AirDrop for iOS yet? Why can’t I just send files to and from mobile devices and desktops? I think iOS 7 and OS X 10.9 will make this happen. We’ll finally see AirDrop make the leap to something niche to something we all use.
On the tablets becoming the mobile device that replaces the laptop, Time is predicting a tablet-hybrid device:
Apple will create a hybrid tablet/laptop.
I am going out on a limb with this last prediction, but one of the more interesting developments with 10-inch tablets is that if you add Bluetooth keyboards, they become like mini laptops. The Android and Windows sides of the tech market are moving quickly to create tablet/laptop combo devices, and business and consumers alike are showing interest in these kind of products. If these types of products gain serious traction, I believe Apple may need to respond to this growth threat in the same way it has now entered the seven-inch tablet market — despite the fact that Steve Jobs told everyone that Apple would never make a seven-inch tablet.
But imagine a sleekly designed hybrid that perhaps has the design lines of the MacBook Air, but with an iPad screen that detaches from its ultra-thin keyboard. For lack of a better term I call it the MacBook AirPad or iPad Air. I know Tim Cook has denounced this type of design, suggesting it is like attaching a “toaster to a refrigerator,” but a sleek and elegant iPad/keyboard device designed by Apple would be of interest to a lot of people, myself included.
Read more: Time
Nope. Not going to happen…sorta. What will happen is that iOS will get better support for using keyboards with your iPad. Apple doesn’t need to make a hybrid device, we have them already. Use the Apple Wireless Keyboard, Logitech Ultrathin (mine should be here next week), or any other of the Bluetooth keyboards out there. Right now one of the things I keep trying to do when working on my iPad is option-tab to switch to another app. No reason why that couldn’t be enabled. You combine this with AirDrop and a way to access files on your device and Apple has the laptop, post-PC replacement. Using Dropbox I can get to a lot of files I save on my Mac. I can create files and save them in Dropbox—through another application—but it’s a kludge. That’s going to come to an end in iOS 7
In addition to AirDrop for iOS, I think we’ll see a real iCloud app for iOS—a single place to look at files you’re saving and storing to iCloud. I haven’t invested in more iCloud storage, not just because I have a ton (over 135 GB at the moment) on Dropbox, but also because beyond backups I don’t see the files I’m saving there. If Apple created a tangible connection between OS X, iCloud, and iOS so I can see my files there and work with them in a meaningful way, then I’m going to be hooked. It might not be “goodbye Dropbox” but it will certainly be “okay Apple, take more of my money”.
I don’t think 2013 will be a breakthrough year for Apple. I think we’ll see iterations and refinements across the board all products, but nothing that will blow our minds until the fall when we’ll see…
The Apple TV Mk 3.
For sake of clarity, since we have three generations of Apple TV right now, I mean Mk 1 as the first device with the hard drive and Mk 2 as the hockey puck (so generations 2 and 3). Mark 3 will be a PVR and cable box. We’ll get a large Fusion drive that can hold a ton of content and start it streaming quickly with Flash storage for things like pausing live TV, downloaded movies, and shows. This device will also be your cable box and Apple will finally bring how we watch TV into this century. Better menus, more intelligent channel arrangements, smarter show recording. Everything you’d imagine if Apple made something for watching TV. We’ll get the first real inklings of it over the Summer, maybe even a Spring announcement of the product so Apple can queue up cable companies fighting to offer the next must-have device. The device will probably be about the size of your current cable box, but almost certainly thiner and cooler looking. The hockey puck version of the Apple TV will remain, maybe with an update that allows you to use your current cable box, but have it pass through your Apple TV for some improvement over the experience. Once we know it’s really coming, we’ll see it arrive on shelves late fall in time for the Holiday season.
This product, and not a real TV set as many people think, will cement Apple as a company that is both about consumer electronics and consuming media. Apple will become even more of a media distribution powerhouse. We’ll see movies arrive in theaters one month, then one or two months later on Apple devices—and only Apple devices. Direct to DVD movies, won’t just be bad sequels of tired franchises, but new, great movies that people will buy and rent at home because soon a blockbuster movie won’t be limited to a theatrical release but also simultaneous theater and home releases.
This will hit theaters hard, but they will adapt with offerings like better apps for enjoying movies, augmented reality in the theater, and even discounts to buy the movie through Apple after you watch it in a theater.
But the most far-reaching prediction will be…
Apple and Google will re-forge close ties
Next year we’re all going to learn that the whole Google vs Apple thing was actually a ruse. Both companies know they need each other–and each other to be successful—to survive and flourish. We’ll see closer partnerships, better connections between Android devices and iOS devices, and even some “most favored app status” for Google apps within iOS. Since I think iOS 7 will allow your to set your own default apps, I think the first step will be to choose from Apple or Google apps then other third party apps.
I don’t think Apple will outright buy Google, nor do I think there will be a complete end to their squabbles, but the reality is that Google and Apple together make devices more productive. Both sides know this, and next year we’ll see them working closer together than ever before.
Those are my crazy predictions for 2013. What do you think?
Photo by Anomalous Productions from Flickr.