New Mac Rumors: Here's What to Expect

Is it possible? All-New Macs for 2017

Apple Campus 2 rendering
Apple's Campus 2 rendering looks as if a giant mothership has settled into the surrounding terrain. Courtesy of Apple

One of our favorite pastimes is predicting what new Mac-related goodies will be coming down the pipeline from the Apple mother ship. And I do mean the mother ship; Apple has already started stocking Apple Park (formerly known as Apple Campus 2: The Spaceship Campus) with employees. It won’t be long before Apple is fully occupying its new headquarters in Cupertino, and future Mac and Apple-related announcements will be coming from the Steve Jobs Theater, a 1,000-seat underground auditorium tucked into one corner of the campus.

The Spaceship Campus nickname comes from the main building, which looks like a spaceship landed and nestled itself into the surrounding terrain. Apple expects Apple Park to be fully staffed by the end of 2017.

So, Campus 2 being fully staffed and the next major Apple announcement being made from the Steve Jobs Theater are our first rumors; I'll let you know how we did later. Now, on to more interesting rumors for the second half of 2017.

Operating Systems

macOS High Sierra is already available as a public beta, so we can put to rest any rumors of Apple changing the numbering convention to match up to iOS. High Sierra increments the version numbering scheme from 10.12 to 10.13, and does not jump to 11.x.

But just because we now know the name and version number doesn't mean there aren't still a few rumors about High Sierra to explore. Let's start with the release date. Apple tells us sometime in the fall, which puts the time frame anywhere from late September to mid December.

Looking back over the last few years, the official release of a new OS has occurred most often at the end of September or the end of October.

With the public beta being released only a few weeks after the summer WWDC event, I'm guessing that unless some catastrophic bug is discovered in beta, macOS High Sierra will see the light of day the last week of September.

By the way, earlier in the year I guessed that macOS High Sierra would be called Shasta, after a volcanic California mountain. I missed that one by a mountain range.

New Macs

Apple announced that upgrades to its MacBook and iMac lineup would be offered with the newer Kaby Lake processors; this syncs up with our predictions from earlier in the year. We didn't, however, expect that Apple would actually continue production of the MacBook Air. So, you win some and you lose some.

Our Mac lineup predictions for the rest of 2017 are pretty easy since Apple gave away a lot of the basic information at WWDC 2017. But they did leave enough up in the air for us to sink our teeth into.

iMac Pro

The big news here is a brand-new iMac Pro model expected to be released in December of 2017. It will be available with Xeon processors in 8, 10, or 18 cores, and up to 128 GB of RAM.

One of the complaints about the new iMac Pro was that the mockups shown at WWDC didn't have user installable RAM. The inability to install RAM at a later date seems to be the antithesis of what a pro user would want, which leads me to wonder if the lack of a RAM access hatch was just an issue with the mockups. The iMac Pro may indeed have user installable RAM, either with the conventional RAM access door currently used in the 27-inch iMac, or with conventional RAM slots to install modules in, but with no external access, requiring the iMac to be partially disassembled.

You may think that's unlikely as it's not very Apple-like to make users tear their Macs apart, but remember, the 2017 21.5-inch iMacs have internal RAM slots that can be accessed by disassembling the iMac. Apple doesn’t want the end user to tear the iMac apart, but it can be done, and Apple will likely supply upgrades for RAM via the Apple stores.

Mac Pro

A new Mac Pro has already been announced for release in 2018, and except for a statement from Phil Schiller that, "We want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we're committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system designed for demanding customers." that's about all we know about the new Mac Pro.

Processor upgrades that could have been used in Mac Pros have been available since 2014, but Apple didn’t seem ready for a new version that soon after the late 2013 Mac Pro release. Last year saw both NVIDIA and AMD release new GPU families that could be candidates for a new Mac Pro design, and the new Thunderbolt 3 interface is just waiting to be included.

But what's really needed for a new Mac Pro is better thermal management which will allow for easier updates and more PCIe lanes. The current version has a total of 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Seems like a lot, but with dual GPUs each using 16 lanes, that only leaves 8 lanes for all the rest of the Mac Pro's interconnect. This explains why the current Thunderbolt 2 ports are shared, and there's only a single SSD for storage.

But PCIe 4, which promises to double interconnect bandwidth and is likely to be used in a new Mac Pro, could solve the interconnect problems, allowing for multiple SSDs and removing some of the shared port structure.

A new Mac Pro would replace the Thunderbolt 2 and USB ports with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3 ports, and add the needed second SSD spot. I also expect the new 2018 Mac Pro will not be housed in the same cylinder, instead a new format for the case will be used. But don’t expect a return to the classic tower case. Apple seems intent on diminutive desktops.

Mac mini

I wasn't happy with the 2014 version of the Mac mini, and I'm not holding my breath for much in the way of improvements this year. There should be a step up to Kaby Lake processors, Intel integrated graphics, and a change from USB and Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 with USB-C connections.

Memory will be configurable at time of sale to 32 GB maximum, but 8 GB will be the minimum, finally dropping the old 4 GB RAM configuration.

2017

Apple has said they're committed to desktop Macs, and we already know they love producing Mac laptops. This makes 2017 likely to be an exciting year for the Mac. We'll have to wait and see how things unfold.

Stop back as the year goes on; we'll keep a tally on how well we do with our rumor predictions.