Mac Product Rumors for WWDC 2016

Find Out What's Expected at the WWDC 2016 Keynote Address

WWDC 2016
Courtesy of Apple

WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) 2016, the annual gathering of Apple developers in San Francisco, will hold its legendary keynote event June 13th at 10 AM (PDT), in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. This is a change from past keynotes, which were held at the Moscone West Convention Center.

The move of the keynote to the Civic Auditorium is likely being done for both the size of the prospective crowd (the auditorium can hold 7,000 people), and the size of the announcements that will be made during the keynote.

The last time Apple used the Civic Auditorium was for the "Hey Siri" event in 2015.

The point being, using a large stage for the keynotes should mean some big announcements are coming from Apple, so here are some of the top rumors for WWDC, in regard to the Mac product lineup.

Update: WWDC 2016 Keynote has concluded, so how did we do in our rumor predictions?

macOS Sierra and Other Announcements From WWDC 2016

macOS Operating System

Apple supports four operating systems: OS X, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Notice which one is not like the others? OS X is the oldest of the four, and its underpinnings have been the base for the other three OSes. But its name just doesn’t match up with the three newer operating systems supported by Apple.

That's why our first rumor involves a name change from OS X to macOS. Apple is the source of this rumor, having accidentally referred to OS X as “MacOS” in a web posting for Earth Day 2016.

On the web page, Apple capitalized the M in macOS. I’ve left it lowercase to match the look and feel of iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

There have also been reports of the macOS name used in some developer files in recent versions of OS X.

But enough about an OS X name change; that's just a branding change, after all.

Let's get down to the more interesting rumors.

New OS Releases

New versions of iOS and OS X are expected to be shown at WWDC. There may also be announcements about new versions of watchOS and tvOS. OS X is expected to have new features added to it. This is in marked contrast to the last update or two, which were mostly about stability, performance, and how the operating system looked, versus actual new useful features being added.

Siri may make an appearance on the Mac. There's no real technical reason why Siri can't make a transition to the Mac, and we can only speculate that Siri was not seen as a “match” to how Macs are used versus Apple’s mobile devices, but really, the difference between iOS devices and Macs is getting thinner and thinner, especially when you compare a new MacBook with a new iPad Pro. Seems many would be willing to consider either one as their mobile platform of choice. I would want the Mac, but that doesn't mean there aren’t good arguments for either one. And if that were the case, why wouldn’t Siri be helpful on both platforms?

Along with Siri integration, a new version of OS X will likely include an updated version of iTunes, tweaked to provide a better user experience with Apple’s Music offerings, as well as integration with iOS devices that allow their fingerprint sensor to be used to lock and unlock your Mac.

I also expect some new features to be added to the Photos app. On the flip side, Apple may also stop supporting the older iPhoto and Aperture apps in any new OS X release, although that will depend on how improved Photos becomes. My guess is Photos will remain crippled as long as Apple wants the iOS and Mac versions to work alike and have the same features.

New Mac Hardware

Apple has at least three models of Macs that are long overdue for updates. The cylindrical Mac Pro is by far the longest overdue, and the one needing the biggest update. It would be a shame if the 2013 Mac Pro just became a one-off, a product Apple never continued to pursue.

The other Macs needing updates are the Mac mini, stuck with processors and graphics from 2014, when Intel couldn't make good on its processor roadmap, and the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro has been the subject of two competing rumors; one suggests a new MacBook Pro will be released either during WWDC or shortly afterward. The second suggests a MacBook Pro will be shown at WWDC, but will not be released until the fall.

My guess is that if a new MacBook Pro isn't going to be released until the fall, it won’t make any type of appearance at WWDC.

Some of the specific MacBook Pro rumors suggest the new MacBook Pro will be thinner and will remove the function keys from the Mac’s keyboard and replace them with an OLED touch strip incorporated just above the new keyboard. The OLED touch strip would free up room near the MacBook Pro hinges now taken up by the keyboard, and allow for a thinner design in the hinge end of the chassis. Other changes would include moving to

Other changes would include moving to Intel’s Skylake processors, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3. The addition of USB-C and/or Thunderbolt 3 also means the end of the MagSafe power connector, freeing up more space to either flatten the MacBook Pro further or allow for more ports.

Speaking of more ports, rumors suggest there could be up to four ports, with a mix of USB 3 Gen-2 specs (10 Gbps) and Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps). This makes me wonder where the MacBook Pro would be getting the bandwidth from. There would be a need for the internals to support PCIe 3, which could also bring a boost to the internal flash-based storage system.

I don’t think there's enough PCIe 3 bandwidth for four full-speed ports and a PCIe flash storage device to all get top performance at the same time, so I expect some ports will be limited, perhaps one Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB C Gen-2 port, and the remaining two USB ports still working at Gen-1 speeds of 5 Gbps. What I don’t expect is the ports to be limited to only one. This is, after all, the Pro version of the MacBook.

New Airport, Time Capsule, and Thunderbolt Displays

Some of the most recent rumors indicate that Apple’s AirPort and Time Capsule products are in short supply, or have outright been removed from Apple stores. This could indicate replacements for the AirPort and Time Capsule are in the offing. Both products were last updated in 2013, and could certainly use a refresh.

Thunderbolt displays have also been hard to find at Apple stores, with stock being almost non-existent. When the stock isn't being updated, it’s a good indication that a product is either seeing the end of its life or a new version is about to be released, and existing stock is being sold off to make room.

In the case of the Thunderbolt Display, it could be either. Never a big seller, and currently well overpriced for the features it provides, the Thunderbolt Display, if replaced, will likely see a new 5K screen similar to the one used in the 27-inch Retina iMac. But it's also possible that this is simply the end of the product line. There are currently a number of 5K displays available, most using Mini DisplayPort interfaces that can connect to Apple’s Thunderbolt port with just the appropriate cable. Unless a new Thunderbolt Display has some unique features, such as a built-in graphics processor to turbocharge performance, there may not be a large enough need to allow Apple to maintain the Thunderbolt Display product.